Romney's political pretzel over Libya
September 12th, 2012
02:23 PM ET
10 years ago

Romney's political pretzel over Libya

(CNN) - Has Mitt Romney twisted the narrative of Tuesday's attacks at U.S. missions in Libya and Egypt?

A timeline of the events suggests Romney was wrong in his accusation that the Obama administration's "first response" on Tuesday was one of sympathy for those who started the violence itself–as the violence came after the first statement was published.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

And Romney's comments Wednesday characterized that response as standing "in apology" when the embassy's statement was not actually an apology but a condemnation.

The timeline:

Tuesday morning in Egypt, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo released a statement stating it "condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." The statement came after protests erupted in parts of the Arab world in response to an online video found offensive by Muslims.

While the statement doesn't specifically mention the video, it says the embassy "firmly reject(s) the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others." READ THE FULL STATEMENT HERE.

After the statement, protesters began to breach the embassy in Cairo, where ultimately several men scaled the walls of the mission and tore down its American flag.

At 6:30 p.m. ET - The embassy then tweeted about its earlier statement: "This morning's condemnation (issued before protests began) still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the Embassy." The tweet was posted by a foreign service officer, CNN confirmed. Several State Department sources said that the U.S. ambassador to Egypt did not sign off on the original statement, as she was in Washington at the time.

Reports then emerged Tuesday evening, Eastern Standard Time, of attacks on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The State Department also told CNN that a consulate employee had been killed in the attacks. At the time, however, the employee's nationality was not clear.

At 10:10 p.m. ET, Romney's campaign released an embargoed (until midnight) statement blasting the Obama administration. The statement had a veiled reference to the Egypt embassy's statement that condemned offensive speech against Muslims and referred to it as the administration's "first response":

"I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks." READ THE FULL STATEMENT HERE.

At 10:25 p.m. ET, the campaign lifted the embargo, and news outlets began reporting the statement.

At 12:11 a.m. ET, Obama's re-election campaign put out a statement, accusing Romney of taking a political swipe during the crisis.

"We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack."

At 6:21 a.m. ET, CNN reported on its wire service that U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed in a rocket attack. Over the next few hours, it's revealed that three other personnel, including a Foreign Service information management officer, were also killed.

At 10:16 a.m. ET, Romney held a press conference at his campaign office in Jacksonville, Florida. He renewed his criticism of the Obama administration, saying "Obama has demonstrated a lack of clarity as to a foreign policy."

Asked if he regretted the wording in his statement Tuesday night, the Republican then issued his own timeline of the events in answering the question.

"The embassy in Cairo put out a statement after their grounds had been breached. Protestors were inside the grounds," he said. As noted earlier, however, the U.S. Embassy statement was issued before the breach. The embassy then reiterated the statement on Twitter after protestors were over the walls. A Romney campaign official pointed to this tweet, which has since been deleted, as justification for the Republican nominee's comment that the statement came after the grounds were breached.

Romney then said the administration's original statement from the embassy in Cairo was effectively an "apology." His language went further than the Tuesday release from his campaign where he called it "disgraceful" and an expression of "sympathy for those who waged the attacks." READ THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE HERE.

"I think it's a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. That instead when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage," he said. "An apology for America's values is never the right course."

His comments also raise the question that if Romney was condemning the embassy statement that condemned offensive speech against Muslims, where does Romney stand on the offensive video?

While he wasn't asked about the video in the press conference, Romney stood by the right to free speech.

"We'll defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion," he said. "We encourage our nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world."

CNN, however, obtained talking points from the Romney campaign in which they advise Republicans on how to respond to the press over the issue. The document suggests Republicans be prepared to answer this question: "Don't you think it was appropriate for the embassy to condemn the controversial movie in question? Are you standing up for movies like this?"

The answer prompts the responder to say that Romney "rejects the reported message of the movie," but to add that "we will not apologize for our constitutional right to freedom of speech."

- CNN's Elise Labott, Peter Hamby, Rachel Streitfeld, Jill Dougherty, Ashley Killough, and Kevin Liptak.

Also see:

- With attacks in Middle East, campaign turns to foreign policy

- Romney's political pretzel over Libya

- Democrats outraged with Romney foreign policy attacks

- Ryan ramps up foreign policy attack on Obama

Filed under: 2012 • Egypt • Libya • Mitt Romney
soundoff (1,318 Responses)
  1. Romneyidiot

    He smirk when embassy's attack. It is real..

    September 12, 2012 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  2. DJR

    So the question is OMAN can you fight all out as C&Chief if your brothers the Muslims continue their rampage on the world and it's people threatening the peace of the entire world for their prophet who was a womanizing king of war? Time to step up or shut up!

    September 12, 2012 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  3. Barry at the WH

    Obama is working hard not to upset his Muslim buddies. To bad that Americans are paying for it with their lives...

    September 12, 2012 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  4. k3citizen

    Romney believes that freedom of speech includes telling lies and getting away with it scot-free.

    September 12, 2012 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  5. Charlie from the North

    Dear Right Wing,

    Barak Obama has done something that other Democrats have only dreamed of. He has shown himself to be stronger on national security than his Republican opponent. He is able to as Teddy Roosevelt advised "walk softly and carry a big stick". I am not surprised that ya'll hate that. It does not fit in to your "myth of Obama". He is much better at foreign policy and defense than even I expected and certainly better than you would ever give him credit for. Luckily for him he does not have to make you happy. He has nearly every Democrat on his side and the Independents will break his way once they take a good look at the alternative. The only question remaining is will the GOP thug governors and legislatures let voters get to the polls and exercise their franchise in sufficient numbers for the landslide that Obama deserves. They may not I realize. I remember Florida 2000. There is a lot on the line for the top 1% and they a spreading a lot of money (and a lot of lies) around(and they accuse Democrats of throwing money at problems).

    September 12, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  6. FRED

    As much as I dislike the Florida Rev. he is well within his right to say what the hell he wants about islam or any other religion. Was common sense or good judgment used, NO, but still his right. Most of the post on here is giving the killers a pass and putting blame on us. Maybe you should move over there and just accept their way of life since you are more concerned about their feeling vise our freedoms. CNN your a joke as well as most of the people that follow you. There a few people out there that get it but damn most of you. Pathetic

    September 12, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  7. Maryellen

    Romney and his sons have elected to stay out of the military, every one of them (sad, pathetic, disgraceful) at best. Mark my words, if elected he will send your children into combat. He is a disaster, please vote for our level headed President in November.

    September 12, 2012 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  8. k3citizen

    Mitt Romney didn't even mention the war in Afghanistan or the troops during his convention. Now, his draft dodging principles seem to make him an expert on war and foreign relations. Mitt will change his opinion about Muslims next week.

    September 12, 2012 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  9. Tony

    Seriously, did you read the second paragraph of the article? Or the third? Or the rest of the article?

    CNN, why did you post Tilly's message, who berated other people for not reading your article before commenting, even though she did not read the article herself?

    September 12, 2012 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  10. Some Folks Can't Read

    It's obvious that some people here can't read. Obama didn't apologize nor did you feel the Embassy of the bus. The embassy condemned the film, and the administration stated they did not vet the first statement. The people here who can't seem to grasp this are either illiterate, or so blind to reality, that they are willing to vote for a man they do not understand. Do not vote for Mitt Romney.

    September 12, 2012 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  11. tony

    free speech is free speech. where it is to voice your opinion about someones religion or lie to the American public and call yourselves foxNEWS when you really aren't news. free speech means you can lie.

    September 12, 2012 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  12. mick

    This blog post is democrat partisan drivel.

    September 12, 2012 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  13. BeverlyNC

    A news story would be when Romney actually TOLD the TRUTH about anything. Romney's statements are all lies and Romney himself said "we will not let fact checkes dictate our campaign". In other words. facts do not matter to Romney and he can never be trusted by the American People. Ryan lies about his marathom running time. If you can tell tje truth about the smallest things, how can you be relied upon to tell the truth on things that truly matter - like how the budget Ryan wrote KIILLS Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, funding for public education, all welfare programs from food stamps to hot school lunches for poor children and, Republicans, most people on Welfare are WHITE and they WORK but no one can live on a minumum wage job- and Ryan plans to end the minumum wage requirement in his budget too. Romney and Ryan are dangerous both domestic and foreign for ALL Americans.

    September 12, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  14. Lee

    CNN, this is not the point. Do you DEFEND the murder of one of our own? Compared to murder, a controversial movie is nothing. People mock other people's religions all the time here in the U.S. We as Christians are forced to suffer through religious condemnation in grade-school AND in College, but you don't see us murdering people. Whats more, if the situation was reversed, you wouldn't hear a damn peep as far as an apology is concerned from Islamists. Come on! Give me a break! What's the real reason you continue to stand behind Barack Hussein's approval of terrorism?

    September 12, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  15. SafeJourney

    Looks like Romney and Lyin Ryan tripped on their own tongues again. They will pay the price for their crass, opportunistic, and craven remarks at the voting booth in November. The American people have been paying attention, and they see Romney and Lyin Ryan for what they are, and they will reject them.

    September 12, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  16. Tom in Indy

    Independent MOM,,
    Muslims have blood on their hands !!
    Not movie makers ,,, unless your refering to the makers of Batman!!!!

    September 12, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  17. Brehon

    Consistent with his conduct throughout this campaign, Romney lies and distorts facts and , when confronted with the lie, doubles down. Unfit to be President.

    September 12, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  18. sarge325

    CNN has abandoned all pretense of being a news organization. This article, and statements to the same effect by anchors on their shows today, is completely wrong. The US embassy in Egypt issued a condemnation of people in America exercising their right of free speech and basically an apology to the offended Muslims during the buildup of tension (appeasement) and then reissued it after the violence started. The statement from the US embassy, on behalf of the Obama administration, was deplorable. Romney was correct to point out the terrible position the statement put the US in.

    The fact that the Obama adminstration later disavowed the statement conclusively demonstrates that Romney was right. However, Obama himself continued on the theme. Inhis statement today he condemned the attacks on our embassies, but he also repeated the criticism of those exercising free speech. It was shameful.

    September 12, 2012 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  19. ardale

    Mitt's dad, George Romney, dropped out of the 1968 presidential race out of embarrassment because he said in an interview that his prior support of the vietnam war resulted from government brain washing. I think Mitts eagerness to politicize Libya is Mitt's brainwash moment.

    September 12, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  20. Mike - WA

    It is amazing and scary how close this moron is coming toward being the president. And how much control the moronic Christian Republic Church Party has. Hate and stupidity reign.

    September 12, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  21. Critical Thinker

    Note to Mitt: Just shut up before you make Palin appear even more smarter than you on foreign diplomacy issues.

    September 12, 2012 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  22. ghost

    Romney takes heat from Brittany Spears for using her song "Oops I Did it Again" during his Libya press conference conclusion.

    September 12, 2012 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  23. tony

    And the GOP is OK with a liar not releasing his TAX returns, or explaining how he got $1,000,000 of contributions into an IRA.

    September 12, 2012 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  24. Mk54

    In a few weeks, when the actual perpetrators have been identified and located, it is my sincere hope that we will hear that some Al Qaeda terrorist thugs learned first hand, the hard way, how difficult it is to outrun a cruise missle. While Obama, our intelligence community and the military work to make this fantasy a reality, we will have to listen to do nothing Republican whining about how it is taking too long for Obama to get the job done. They will also be spouting nonsense that what happened is somehow, by their twisted reasoning, Obama's fault. Don't listen to the noise. Trust our President to bring these terrorists to justice. Barack Obama is a great man, working hard for you.

    September 12, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  25. kelly

    When our nation is in a crisis and the death of our foreign
    leaders,It is a time for all parties to unite and stand behind
    Our president,,It makes the united states look bad when
    our political leaders bash and make unwarrented statements
    against our commander and cheif 4 political gain,,It is a sad
    day in america, we loss our heros, those who risk their
    lives everyday......The only disgrace I see is Mitt Romney

    September 12, 2012 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53