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. CaringFool

    I don't trust Mitt or Ben. Both want war for the sake of corporate profits.

    September 12, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  2. Bern in Western PA

    WORST CAMPAIGN EVER. These twits should never be anywhere near the White House.

    September 12, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  3. columbus

    This is what really worries me about Romney, he's not a diplomat and he panders to poles, and rather than show solidarity for the principles of democracy as a government of the USA, he decides to show derision. It would be one thing to elect him to get the economy fixed, but if he has his finger on the button, not sure I trust him with that.

    September 12, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  4. JustAO

    Mitt should open his mouth a little wider before he tries to fit his foot in it.

    September 12, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  5. oneandun

    Obama is failure on foreign policy. He apologized to our enemies and look what happens. Mitt is right to criticize this turd.

    September 12, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  6. Thomas

    Romney's political pretzel over Libya.

    Romney sounds like he could use a cold beer with his Pretzal.

    This Bud's for you Mitt !

    September 12, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  7. nash

    Can it be any more transparent!! This guy puts out a so-called movie that simply put was to incite violence, say what you may, but if you believe there was any other reason than you are very naive. As for Romney, he is the definition of a panderer, the definition of a tax cheat, the definition of a coward, the definition of a liar, it's amazing that any sane person believes anything this man says. Yesterday and today we Americans should be together as one, 4 great fellow Americans died representing our great country. Mr. Romney instead has tried to politicise it, disgusting!!

    September 12, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  8. michael

    romney is a moron here is the proof

    September 12, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  9. Sandra Davis

    How grieved we are that an American citizen with a heart for service has died while on duty being a buffer for us. I want only one President to speak for the United States of Ameria while we are collectively suffering. Voices that are designees of the official position of America are also welcome. We need the news to keep us updated. All others can exercise elements of patience while the families of these fallen Americans see through their tears. I don't agree with the early politicizing of the tragedy of American deaths. I want the nation to morn as if 3,000 were killed so that the world understands that violence is not the way that we are going to better understand one another. Someone said today that the world is complicated. We agree. Here is where world leaders really can lead. Whoever advised Mr. Romney made a calculated error. Americans stand together when others attack us. President Obama, Vice President Biden, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Condoleeezza Rice get it and others need to. Standing together for peace and justice is a better way forward from this dreadful attack.

    September 12, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  10. Someday

    So many Democrats, so much naivete. Really sad.

    September 12, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  11. michael

    romney is to put it kindly mentally challenged

    September 12, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  12. Joe

    Mittens is completely inept in every way. How anyone can even consider voting for this rich ninny is beyond belief!

    September 12, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  13. zp

    I believe it's the CNN political unit that is twisting the narrative. Romney spoke resolutely and appropriately. Pres. Obama' record speaks for itself in regards to how many apologies he has issued across the world on America's behalf since he became president. This has created a very volatile environment internationally in relation to the U.S. He definitely has sent mixed messages. I totally agree with Romney and believe he should be our next Commander-in-Chief.

    September 12, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  14. Carlos Gee Whiz

    @epsigafoos -- You're a twit, WHERE do you see an "Apology" in that statement by the US Embassy? And clearly they HAD to say something in an attempt to stave off threatening repercussions. Mitt also LIED about the statement being issued after the walls of the compund were breached.

    September 12, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  15. Doug from Seattle

    Republican's don't know how to lead (as demonstrated by Bush-Cheney, 2000 to 2008)

    Republican's don't know how to follow (Congress, 2008 to present)

    It is time for the Republican's to simply get out of the way!!!!

    September 12, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  16. Observer974

    Well, take a look at the timeline and Middle Eastern news. The US government apologized for this stupid film. No one was rioting. Most people in the Libya, Egypt, etc. didn't even know it existed. But the Obama Administration issued an apology and a condemnation of the film (and, other than it being the right of the film makers to do this, I DO NOT like the film or that self serving nitwit "reverend" Jones). Following that apology, various Mullah's and fanatics drummed up the mob, we go riots, flag burnings, etc. I sounds to me as if the incompetence of this White House *led* to the embassy attacks and the deaths, was the spark that led to this. Now, you can try and spin it any way you want, but any independent observer is going to come to the conclusion that that Mr. Romney's criticism is completely valid, that the bungling incompetence of an Administration trying to score political points, trying to head off the very riots they caused! They blew it and the result was the death of an ambassador and three staff members and the continuing violence and anti-American, anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-Western mess we see today.

    September 12, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  17. 1twinsfan

    It was all laughable when Romney was at the Olympics but here is how utterly cluelessness regarding foreign policy and protocol in action which is just what many of us feared.

    September 12, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  18. Gurgyl

    Total nonsense to USA

    September 12, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  19. sean lannon

    thyis "political unit" exists for one purpose only: "we must cover for barry at all cost".

    September 12, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  20. Ibnado

    Mr.Romney comments demonstrate his grasp of foreign policy, US national interest in that regent, US soldgers' safety abroad,war on terrisom against USA, Jeopardizing US diplomat safety, and his religious tolerance.
    The valid question is CAN USA AFFORD A PRESIDENT WITH SUCH PRIMITIVE KNOWLEDGE ABOUT INT'L FOREIGN POLICY? FYI, I am not a democrat nor Republican, just a zealous American

    September 12, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  21. PRussell

    What ever happened to decorum? One President at a time especially in crisis on foreign soil. Mitt Romney shows time and again that he is a bumbling opportunists, liar and tax evader who will say or do anything to get what he wants, which in this case is the presidency. I cannot believe that Americans are uninformed enough yet, despite the non-biased, everything is equal on all side media, to elect this man to office. He is completely unprepared to be the President and Commander- in- Chief

    September 12, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  22. Ken

    What an outrageous insult by Romney to the brave embassy personnel, their families, and all thinking Americans. He is condemning the embassy staff for working hard to improve relations with the Islamic world, and getting killed in process.

    September 12, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  23. DumbasRocks [R]s

    Mitt's mistake is that he bows to the same politically calculated, inaccurate [R]ightwing noise machine that drives ALL of the responses from the [R] Teatards these days. That Mittens would galdly let himself and his campaign be USED by this uberpartisan buffoonery, and then double-down on this same buffoonery in some lame attempt to save face, at this tragic time for America, just goes to show what a shallow shell of a man he really is. That his party is full of furry-legged cowards was already a given; ut I guess he just had to join in. This should be a wake-up sign for all patriotic Americans of any political party.

    September 12, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  24. TheAlaskaCurmudgeon

    As usual, Romney has no clue what he believes.

    September 12, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  25. flasher3838

    here we go again, the palace guard tryinig to make sure the obama administration takes no blame for anything it does at any time. the first response after the cairo incident was a pathetic apology from someone in authority in the obama administration. every american should condemn that statement for the complete slap in the face it was to american values.

    September 12, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
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