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.

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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. LUVAmerica

    Can we all just lay it down for ONE day. Americans have been killed and one of OUR embassies was attacked!. Can we just have sometime to process that! Have we really become a country of only McCoys and Hatfields. For one day, TODAY, can Republicans and Democrats come together to mourn the dead. I believe their families may find some comfort in that.

    September 12, 2012 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  2. GOPitsOfStupidity

    The US Embassy surrounded with the Mob issued a statement condemning people who made the video and the people breaching the embassy.
    I Romney was president however, then instead of trying to calm the mob, the embassy would issue a statement to make sure the mob is incited! Brilliant plan!
    Can Romney wait a day before he criticises the dead for doing their job: DIPLOMACY (look it up, you'd think a Harvard graduate would know the word!)

    September 12, 2012 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  3. Robney the fool

    Robney is a fool, and the only people who are greater idiots than him are the ones still supporting him.

    September 12, 2012 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  4. micfin

    Doesn't anyone really see the BIG PICTURE here? The Republicans don't want the White House back yet. They know full well, the economic issues we have been dealing with since Obama gained the office won't begin to correct themselves until near the end of his second term, if by then. At which point, they might actually have a decent candidate to run against whoever represents the Dems at that point. Keep in mind when it comes to election time this November, Obama inhereted the mess we have from a Good Ole Boy Republican that should never have been there to begin with. Talk about lack of leadership!!! And it was him and the the current Romney supporters that put us where we are now and they have stonewalled him from the beginning and continue to stonewall and belittle the Administration at every turn.

    September 12, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  5. SpotIn

    What a slime bag this Romney is. I just wish those simpletons that are voting for him could think what a Romney White House would mean to our standing in the world.

    September 12, 2012 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  6. Joe From Boston

    Is it me or have none of the news outlets actually reported on who put this movie out? That might, you know, add a little context.

    As for Romney, he's an empty suit. Beyond shallow.

    September 12, 2012 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  7. Joe

    Freedom of speech has consequences. Go ahead open your pie hole...

    September 12, 2012 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  8. Loren Middleton

    Romney is right about what, clueless. Get out of that bubble you're... failed leadership- he's a joke and you goofs that are following him are the punch line. Obama lead and assassinated more terrorist leaders and has done more to disrupt terrorist coordination than "W" did in 8 years while he chased his tail and bankrupt this country. The scary thing is, is that W is a scholar compared to this billionaire trust fund clown. G.O.P needs to go back to the drawing board and get the loons out of the party. Notice only lunatics and greedy demonic forces come out in support of this clown.... give it rest. He's dismantling like the rest of his political contemporaries. He probably would run into the custodial closet if something happened like 911, at least set there and looked "stupid". Leadership-Lead us into what?

    September 12, 2012 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  9. PArman105

    C mon, Romney has given his position on whats happening in Cairo, Obama has not even mentioned the problems in Cairo. When is he going to lead and condemn what is happening there Anderson???

    September 12, 2012 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  10. Robert

    Does Romney REALLY know what a real, real illeteriat he is in regards to foreign policy?

    September 12, 2012 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  11. Todd Nolan

    The Obama haters are true contortionists here. The statement from the Egyptian embassy did not come from Obama and predated the violence. Obama has been far more effectual than Bush in tamping down al Qaeda than Bush. 9/11 happened on Bush's watch and bin Laden was killed on Obama's watch. How can they say Obama sides with our enemies?!

    September 12, 2012 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  12. Ritewing Nuttfuhk

    Romney could have looked dumber. Doubling down on stupidity. Same with Ari Fliescher, 9-11 Guliani, and Dan Senor

    September 12, 2012 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  13. HI THERE

    Remember, CNN has promised that it us totally unbiased and not I repeat NOT completely controlled by Barack Hussein Obama. It does not want him to be reelected. It just tells us the facts. No. No bias here.

    Say, how are CNN's ratings lately.

    September 12, 2012 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  14. Jimbo

    It was great to hear Rudy G's comments on CNN. He was so dead on. Basically, something like this: "We need the president to speak with actions. Not words. He's great at speeches but low on actions. Ronald Reagan wouldn't have apologized. He would have shown anger and contempt at the actions. We needed the president to use stronger statements and he just sounded week". (meanwhile a message is coming across CNN: Marines and boats are on their way over to Libya). Still Rudy G. drones on: "Romney is right, we should quit apologizing. His words are strong and tells our enemy that America WILL be taken seriously." (meanwhile, the message comes across the screen: Marines expected to reach border of Libya soon). What a joke. Talk about a contradiction. Obama might not be a great president but far better than the clowns that keep trying to position themselves as being more patriotic. God bless our troops and our ambassadors that also risk their lives in foreign countries.

    September 12, 2012 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  15. Karen

    Mitt Romney=clueless.

    September 12, 2012 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  16. TonyK

    Tilly: what article was it you read, then, and what timeline? The embassy sent out a notice about a film that was beginning to cause unrest. No apology, but condemnation of hte film (made by a bigotted film maker). Embassies are attacked. Obama condemns attacks, Romney goes on int'l tv and says the first response of Obama was to apologize to the attackers–THAT SIMPLY NEVER HAPPENED. There is thing called seeing and hearing what you want to see and hear. Romney;s response was craven and cowardly.

    September 12, 2012 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  17. OCCavoter

    The Ronmey/Ryan ticket is done. They're not even close to hitting prime time television. The Presidential office is a man's job. Romney/Ryan hasn't grown up to play with the big boy's yet. I believe Ryan will jump the sinking sub and try to save his day job.


    September 12, 2012 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  18. gmangps

    Romney's statement about Cairo's response being apologetic was simply ignorant. It was a very well crafted statement that both condemned the breach and the video in question for it's attack on Islam. The people who issued the statement were worried about their lives and were not going to risk angering the mob by calling them out and simply escalating the situation.

    September 12, 2012 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  19. dave

    Once again the mitt campaign proves it meant it when they stated they would not be dictated by fact checkers. Criticism is fine, and needed in our system but lets at least criticize factually.

    September 12, 2012 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  20. snowyowl

    Romney: Child. Bully. Pathetic. Loser.

    September 12, 2012 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  21. craig

    While the math of the Rmoney/Ryan budget plan doesn't add up, the math of the campaign does. Rmomey = Lies.

    September 12, 2012 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  22. Ralph N

    Democrats are a joke. Obama's weak minded half apologetic position is also a joke. Democrats on this site will take any opportunity, even if one doesn't exist to mouth off. I couldn't agree with Romney more.

    September 12, 2012 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  23. Let's get real

    Clearly someone who needs to brush up on international affairs. Mitt we are striving for peace not constant bickering. Mistakes were made bet. Iraq purely being the biggest disaster followed by Afghanistan. We do not need to become another us against them mentality. Keep your hidden agenda "values" out of it. Still waiting for this guy to just say God told him to run for President.

    September 12, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  24. southernwonder

    for me now romney has disqualified himself for consideration for president.

    September 12, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  25. flatbushfred

    To all those who think Mitt has stated the facts correctly: Aside from the fact that he's completely wrong, even if his facts were totally correct, for him to come out with this criticism of the President of the United States during a crisis shows him to be something between a lowlife and a traitor. Who knows where this violence could have led, so to stand back and criticize the Commander in Chief during a crisis, ignoring the fact that American heroes have just been killed, is at best reprehensible, or to use Mitt's word: "disgraceful." Even for a Republican....

    September 12, 2012 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
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