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. applejacks

    I'm beginning to wonder about Republicans' grasp of the English language. I don't see any apology anywhere. I don't see how distancing oneself from the views and comments (or in this case, stupid movie) of an individual is the same thing as apologizing for them. Republicans can't do anything except invoke the "free speech" argument when in fact they are cowards. This has nothing to do with free speech. We Americans don't need to apologize or even stand up for free speech. We already have it. But we also can also distance ourselves from the content of the speech while condemning senseless violent acts. The reason why some Republicans don't want to stand up for religious tolerance and say anything bad about the movie is because they agree with it, and they don't want to distinguish the plight of democracy of the Libyans and Egyptians from real terrorists. McCain's response was perfect. Romney's was Palin-esque. Instead of "sympathizing", what he really wanted to say that Obama was "pallin' around with terrorists".

    September 13, 2012 03:14 am at 3:14 am |
  2. lindylou123

    Nowhere noway did Pres Obama apologize! Mitt Romney is a liar and I would not be surprised to find out that some of his right wing friend made that movie to cause problems so this idiot could try to make it about Pres. Obama –

    Mitt Romney is dangerous and stupid.

    September 13, 2012 03:23 am at 3:23 am |
  3. Thisarticlesucks

    So continuing with this stupid train of thought, we should be outraged that the Lybian government didn't provide an apology for failing to protect our ambassador and diplomats? Their condemnation of the actions apparently doesnt equate to an apology.

    Also, so this article implies that violence only takes place once physical boundaries are crossed. This article would like to paint a peaceful, nonviolent protest. That for some reason the embassy thought that an appeasement apology to a "non-violent gathering" was the best course of action.

    I bet tomorrow CNN will write about how they didn't actually invade the embassy, or US Soil; instead they will write how "the gathering showed respect to the US by conducting a political sit-in of our embassy."

    CNN sometimes just frustrates me with their bias. No better than Fox News.

    September 13, 2012 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  4. Smokey

    When Romney goes shooting his mouth off trying to score political points before anybody even knows what's really going on, it doesn't make him seem very presidential, that's for sure.

    September 13, 2012 03:27 am at 3:27 am |
  5. lindylou123

    Thank God for the American people who will NOT vote Mitt Romney into our White House! He is dangerous and would destroy America – did you see that the Vegas casino owner who is spending 100 million to try to buy the election would gt a 2200 % return on those dollars 2.6 billion dollars from Romney tax breaks planned for the wealthiest? Thats a heck of a return on an investment. Think America – is that what you want for our nation?

    September 13, 2012 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  6. snakedog

    The Republican Party has been taken over by hate. all they advocate is war and the sad thing about that is that almost none of these hawks has ever been in the military.

    September 13, 2012 03:32 am at 3:32 am |
  7. missmorga23

    Someone has to be a leader and stand up for America. Thanks goodness Romney has the backbones!!!!!!

    September 13, 2012 03:33 am at 3:33 am |
  8. lindylou123

    This is really sickening – he attacks the embassy staff that is being attacked –
    He lies again, he has no understanding of diplomacy – he never even mentioned the brave long serving people who were killed
    Mitt Romney is the disgrace – to the Mormon church, to the American people, to the human race.

    September 13, 2012 03:36 am at 3:36 am |
  9. Lindknox

    Like I said before, "you people think you can just lie on people, with little or no effort. Because you lie all the time and many folks believe the lie!!!!! I believe it said the Truth will set you free. The Mitt Romney camp is so fricken desperate they will say whatever, or take what whoever saids and blame the President. Like someone said earlier save it for the debate. You can tell when Mitt is about to lie, he stumbles over his words and studders into what he is trying to say. Liar, Liar. Hater, Haters.

    September 13, 2012 03:38 am at 3:38 am |
  10. David

    If you believe that the embassy issued the statement because the protestors were practicing non-violence, then nothing can be said to lead you to a rational thought.

    If you believe that publicly condemning actions doesnt equate to an apology in international politics, then why are you not asking more of the Lybian government and requesting an actual apology rather than a non-apologetic condemnation?

    September 13, 2012 03:48 am at 3:48 am |
  11. Z

    It is obvious to me that Romney is having a meltdown along with his staff. They are so desperate to win they have become psychotic. The last thing we need is a person like this answering that 3AM phone call. Good Grief, are they going to have to pay back the Billionaires if they lose. The Republican Party of yesteryear is gone and they're only a caricature of what they once were. I'm voting straight Dem this year, because, these extremist that have taken over the Republican Party need to be booted out of office, they are dangerous for our democracy.

    September 13, 2012 03:59 am at 3:59 am |
  12. dennis0420

    The GOP is in full panic mode right now. But how can you defend a moron like Willard. The guy couldn't wait to politicize the deaths of American citizens. That guy is just freakin disgusting. Another great pick GOP!

    September 13, 2012 04:07 am at 4:07 am |
  13. 66Biker

    Every time Romney speaks, it's another vote for Obama. He should just quit and walk away before this really gets out of hand. What a tool...

    September 13, 2012 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  14. Paul

    I think Romney is more stupid than GW Bush, and that is a hard thing to do.

    September 13, 2012 04:30 am at 4:30 am |
  15. LOST

    During the crackdown on who is a part of these attacks, all involved should be brought to justice...including the southern Quran burning preacher who allegedly "helped distribute" the film. I don't know who's advising Mittens to say anything he says, but he should know better than to aid and advocate for such an ignorant person or group. In politics, be careful who your friends are...lay down with dogs, get up with fleas.

    September 13, 2012 04:33 am at 4:33 am |
  16. Bob Ramos

    I read the initial statement put out by the Embassy and sat through both the Romney and Obama press conferences.

    I have lived through presidential campaigns from Ike to the present. Yesterday, Romney disgraced himself and all of the prior GOP presidential candidates by lying about what actually happened. In his rush to take political advantage, he flat out lied about what actually happened and got the important facts wrong. From statements made, and disavowals, by GOP politicians (except Ryan), they are distancing themselves from Romney's lies.

    September 13, 2012 04:46 am at 4:46 am |
  17. Schmoogalicious

    The US embassy did not "apologize". It condemned the idiots that made a movie explicitly to degrade a religion. Do Romney and his fellow conservatives support films that belittle religions? Like Mormonism, perhaps? As the embassy statement pointed out, just because you're free to say something doesn't mean the rest of us have to agree.

    September 13, 2012 04:51 am at 4:51 am |
  18. Jeffer65

    Jesus and Christians in general are ridiculed and poked fun all the time in American media (South Park, the Simpsons, and more). You don't hear about protests or riots because of that. Westboro Baptist church does not count.

    September 13, 2012 05:03 am at 5:03 am |
  19. Veritas

    Romney is a lying db

    September 13, 2012 05:16 am at 5:16 am |
  20. Concerned Citizen

    Willard, Willard, Willard...drop out now before you embarrass yourself further. Remember when Grampy McCain was running he had two choices for VP and he picked the smarter of the two. Caribou Barbie was a mistake. Willard is a mistake. Ryan doesn't even realize that his entire platform is based on a novel that failed as a romance or as science fiction. The economics portrayed in the book was done out of sarcasm to show it wouldn't work!

    The republican party is the new definition of pathetic.

    September 13, 2012 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  21. sad

    President Obama never apologized or sympathised with enemies. It is the buzz word Romney and his followers have repeatedly used to try and turn lies into truth. If the Egyptian embassy with the knowledge of an imminant threat puts out a statement to ward off trouble or whatever, they should be given a chance to explain it after the situation is under control. Romney is only thinking of himself when he decides to jump in and it is amazing how they are defending him with more distortions and talking points. People calling the president a muslim are strange since he has targetted many muslim leaders. I think after seeing what happened when the cartoon of Mahammad came out some one was irresponsible in producing this film with no regard to American lives and safety. Just because there is freedom of speech one should not incite violence.

    September 13, 2012 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  22. you're funny

    You bush guys. You should be very proud of where our country is economically because this was your fault. Rich people first. War second and guns. Wake up we are not in seventeen century. Please ask for made In USA and call your Congress and ask her/him to work on bring jobs here back at home.

    September 13, 2012 05:41 am at 5:41 am |
  23. A person of interest

    If the POTUS is a Muslim, why has he put the order in to snuff out the #1, 2,3,4.....Taliban leaders.... I have to say "orders" because... Bush got credit for getting Hussein and had a banner on an aircraft carrier stating "mission accomplished" behind him while speaking to the sailors..... Bush wasn't bragging BTW, but Obama was at the white during his 10min presentation and it was bragging. If the republicans are so good, so righteous, and the country was run better 4 years ago...why didnt the former 2 term president speak at the GOP convention? BTW healthcare haters when your kids turn 21 please take them off your insurance coverage, if so, that means you are for Obamacare.....

    September 13, 2012 05:45 am at 5:45 am |
  24. bucdale

    It think it is quite telling that Obama shows more anger towards Romney and the Republicans than he ever will towards these Muslim fanatics. The only thing he disagrees with them about is the timing of their attacks... not their justification!!!!!

    September 13, 2012 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  25. Bart

    It seems the liberal media with cnn leading the way is twisting the information on Libya. Mister incompetence, Obama, is screwing up the situation. Obama is the new Jimmy Carter. Nations do not fear a weak (apologizing) nation.
    Rahm Emanuel likes crisis and tries to spin a crisis for political advantage. A condemnation of the Republicans will follow soon. Already the Dems are screaming at Mitt for his words/actions as Obama remain silent and SCARED.

    September 13, 2012 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
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