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. Thomas


    Your the perfect example of the wasteful over reactionary hawkish crazy thinking that was made after 911.
    Maybe we should blow up the place , then send in a few hundred thousand personal . Have them stay there ten years and spend billions of dollars.

    Cool out , we need to wait for those responsible to come out of there holes , relax in a nice safe place , find them and send them to meet there maker.

    The fanatics want us to kill innocent civilians , thats how they gain support .Let us get the facts before we react .

    I want a cool calm President , not a reactionary Romney .

    September 13, 2012 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  2. Name Suzette

    Why are you Republicans so deceitful and hateful.the Bible you tout so much says the greyest of the 3 that abide is love. How can you say you love Jesus yet hate your enemies

    September 13, 2012 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  3. lbpaulina

    I think that in such difficult moments, more dangerous than many people seem to understand, the security of the Americans has an absolute priority on the countryside political discussions. Maybe too many people forgot that in Libya and Egypt, and in all the Middle East, there are American people working in the embassies, and it is amazing to me that Mr. Romney seems to ignore that in some moments he cannot attack the President. Is it still an aspect of his lack of knowledge of the international relationships? Or is he too gross to understand the difference between politics. homeland security and the risk of a war?
    I'm really disappointed. Don't we have anyone better to oppose to the Democrats? OMG.

    September 13, 2012 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  4. Bill in Florida

    Facts and the truth aren't important to Mitt the Twit, who has seen the President gain 4-5 points in polls since the Dem convention. He's a desperate man not at all prepared to run a presidential campaign - much less the greatest country on earth.

    September 13, 2012 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  5. charles hodgson

    So called American Christians are the biggest hypocrites of all. I remember the uproar when The Last Temptation of Christ first hit the theaters. It's not a question of religious beliefs but a question of sensibilities. We can insult YOUR "Prophet" because we are American and Christian. Don't you dare even make a movie about OUR "Savior" or all hell will break loose. When will the people in this country practice the RELIGIOUS FREEDOM that our country was founded on?

    September 13, 2012 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  6. Thomas

    Romney is right ... Obama basically said hey I agree with the people who killed our people...
    Obama did not say that , you were told that on Fox news , so you believe it as the truth.

    Did you read what Obama's official response was ? Next you guys will translate the novel war and peace down to twenty words or less on your twitter page .

    September 13, 2012 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  7. The Left Wing

    How can people say Romney doesn't think things through on foreign policy?
    Wasn't going to Britain on the eve of the Olympics and saying they weren't ready thinking things through?
    Wasn't going to Israel, inviting supports to a fund raiser, and doing it on a holy day thinking things through?
    Wasn't going to Poland and having an aid curse at a friendly reporter about being respectful in a holy place thinking things through?
    Wasn't shooting your mouth off about a serious foreign problem while Americans were dying and all the facts were not known thinking things through?
    Gosh, I guess he really doesn't think things through!

    September 13, 2012 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  8. JimB

    Romney is a disgrace. He has no class. He is one of the worst presidential candidates of my lifetime. It's hard to believe the race is so close. It's hard to imagine him as Commander in Chief. Obama is cool, thoughtful,and makes me proud to be an American – I trust him to handle difficult situations.

    September 13, 2012 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  9. Xchairman

    He is very much desperate to win in this election. Woe to those that sent him to run for this election.

    September 13, 2012 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  10. Ron

    The position that we need tough talk and no apologies may sound good from the safety of our homes but none of us were there staring down a violent mob looking for revenge. Do we assume that the people who were there are idiots? The notion that an apology implies permission to attack is implausible especially when compared to the results to be expected from a course of action that calls for insulting one's attackers.

    September 13, 2012 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  11. ScootRanger

    "Pretzel"? Sorry, CNN...there is no political pretzel here. Just the liberal news media grasping at straws. Pathetic.

    September 13, 2012 02:02 am at 2:02 am |
  12. Dave A

    Romney wants war to promote his career.. Horrible man. Avoided service just like his rich kids

    September 13, 2012 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  13. Tony in ST. Louis

    This Romney guy is in waaaay over his head. He might know how to make money for investors, ....but he completely STINKS in every aspect of everything else, ...strictly based on what I've heard from him. He's an immediate threat/danger to this country, due to his perceived presidential incompetence! He should have never been voted the repub nominee! The only light at the end of his message is that almost anyone can luck up and get rich, ...kind of like a "C" average bush guy ending up being President. Obama 2012'

    September 13, 2012 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  14. kathy Bennett

    again i said, what is wrong with Romney is he nuts, is he trying to push a war here? For once why doesn't he shut his mouth where ever he goes he upsets some one, advise him he has NO right to talk to any one about this killing he is a no- one it is none of his business, he isn't the President we have one of them and a dam good one President Obama, and until Romney gets elected he needs to butt out. Only a nit witt like he is, would start some thing like he is trying to start. SHUT UP.

    September 13, 2012 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  15. Joe User

    If CNN were to apply their own filter algorithms to this story, it wouldn't be published due to being so outrightly offensive.

    September 13, 2012 02:20 am at 2:20 am |
  16. Xchairman

    Mr. romney I finally realize that u are a stubon person that u have no regard to other people..that is why the electorate will abandone u very soon.

    September 13, 2012 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  17. sawsharee

    The only political pretzels are the media and there constant intent on twisting the truth to get their incompetent leader re-elected. The American people are wise to your dishonesty. Your approval is lower than Congress and headlines like this one-sided nonsense is why CNN is going down under fast. Romney was the only person who looked and acted presidential . Next time you in the media try to make Romney look stupid you might try making sure the microphone is off. Now you all are the only ones who look stupid and you have been caught in the act just like your almighty leader was caught on microphone twice showing his true character.

    September 13, 2012 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  18. Mike from Calgary

    Romney can read over and over a report or statement issued by others and still not grasp the content. is Romney really that dense or is he just incompetent! If he can't understand a simple statement, how is he ever going to manage diplomacy with others nations! That's how unfunded undeclared wars get started that since the Bush administration have squandered American lives and American tax dollars ... and Romney wants to start new wars (or military actions)!
    The more we learn of Romney through his speeches. his ads and his debates and his "Go Bankrupt" op-eds, the better we understand why Massachusetts told Romney "WE WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN" (as in The Who's theme song on CSI Miami). I note that Romney has only been elected to Public Office once ,,, and he knew enough not to try to seek re-election!
    Unfortunately for the Republicans and for all those supporting the Pro-Life cause who have been embarassed by Romney, the Republicans have picked their weakest candidate as their presidential nominee!

    September 13, 2012 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  19. Bobbynorwich

    Romney knows the President did not side with the attackers, yet he bold-face lied about the statement to try to gain some cheap political gain. Big backfire, when the US is attacked and on 9/11 no less - the only role of the challenging candidate is to say, "We stand together - Democrats and Republicans - against the brutality of those who attack our embassy and killed our diplomats."

    It is frightening to think of Romney handling our foreign policy, he's clearly not ready for prime time.

    September 13, 2012 02:26 am at 2:26 am |
  20. tonyl

    One word describes Romney and the extremist

    One word describes Romney and extremist GOP fools "TWISTED".

    September 13, 2012 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  21. GI Joe

    Romney screwed the pooch. He panicked. He accused the President of the United States of doing something that he DID NOT DO.

    You are toast, Mitt the Twit. We don't need your short fuze.

    September 13, 2012 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  22. Mary

    Romney, wants to be president so bad, he doesn't care anything about no one except his self. I see a lot of comments on here that are not true. Some real bad lies and the only place I can find they would be coming from is Fox. You people that watch Fox do know Fox is ban in Canada because of their lies and propaganda. Fact check me on this and you will see. Fox is like watching a made-up movie.

    September 13, 2012 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  23. Mack

    What the heck, Romney is so desperate to be POTUS that facts or semantics should not stand in the way. Just pass around some "Frank Luntz" fatties to smoke to the masses of dolts who typically vote Republican and you can easily change the meaning of "condemnation" into "apology".

    September 13, 2012 02:52 am at 2:52 am |
  24. Dee

    Mitt took a tradgedy and made it about him....he also magnifies it by 100 and then pretends he is already solving the problem by being him! Sounds a lot like what he did during the Olympics. He is a creepy liar and loves loves loves when bad things happen...

    September 13, 2012 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  25. snakedog

    Mitt is a Very stupid man. I,m more convinced of this every day.

    September 13, 2012 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
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