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. don

    We are wittnessing a flip flop in real time. Within a day or two, possibly as early as a few hours Romney will be 180deg from his original position and blaming the media for misconstruing what he originally said even though it's on tape.

    September 13, 2012 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  2. Marie MD

    The twit doesn't want to the job of president because he can't do it, this is not bain and hiw vulture capitalists cronies, this is real life and lives were lost.
    The campaign is desperate and even after being told time and again that they are wrong and why they are lying and he is still doubling down on his statements.
    These two should move to the Cayman Islands and count the bully bishop's money.

    September 13, 2012 06:23 am at 6:23 am |

    It is crystal clear now. Mitt the twit is not qualified to be President and the unhinged GOBP tea potty are as delusional as ever before.

    September 13, 2012 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  4. history major

    Try looking at the whole timeline. Video was released in July. A few days ago, an ultra-conservative Muslim talk show host publicized it in Egypt to stir up his fundamentalist Tea-Party type followers. People in Egypt objected to the video, and blamed the whole U. S. for it. The embassy released the initial statement to try to explain that the video did not have the backing of the U. S. Government. What part of this is sympathizing with the protesters or apologizing for U. S. values.

    Romney has nothing going for him. His only recourse is to throw mud at the President every time someone sticks a microphone in his face. As we know from Ryan, truth has no place in the Republican campaign.

    Where does the Romney campaign stand on Warren Jeffs?

    September 13, 2012 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  5. Steve

    Freedom of speech is not just a universal right, it comes with a responsibility to use it wisely.

    September 13, 2012 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  6. T'sah From Virginia

    ►Barry In Las Vegas
    It's not wrong. The Obama Administration did not reject the statement until AFTER all hell broke loose about how wrong the embassy was to apologize and then Obama threw the embassy under the bus.◄

    President Obama did not have anything to do with the statement coming from the embassy – as RomneyHood suggested; President Obama did not throw the embassy under the bus; they just stated that they had no control over the statement.

    Romney is not on a "political pretzel" – he's on the road to NOWHERE – There would have been NO REASON for the government to make any statement – like President Obama said, you don't SHOOT before you AIM – if Romney kept his mouth shut and OBSERVE the issue first instead of putting his FOOT in his MOUTH. And then you had his number 2 man – Paul LYAN – vouch for him – And then on Wolf Blitz show, here comes Guiliani bashing the president with his foreign 911 experience – PahLeeeezzzzeeee!!

    Think about it – It's NOT just the Democrats criticizing Romney – it's more from the Republican side and they were doing it since DAY 1; it started in the Republican primary – We said it; it will be the Republicans that DESTROY Romney and that is what’s happening now!! Who’s looking forward to 2016 the most – Come on now, it was so obvious at the Republican convention.

    Obama/Biden – The ONLY Trusted Way Forward!!!

    September 13, 2012 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  7. T'sah From Virginia

    oops, meant to say "Wolf Blitzer's show" not "Blitz" – sorry Wolf; dang, I sound like Herman Cain!!!

    September 13, 2012 06:43 am at 6:43 am |

    The debates will feature Mitt the twit playing Rick Perry.

    September 13, 2012 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  9. abdog

    Obama should just come out and say it's his policy to be against Mit Romney jumping off bridges.

    Then Mit can take the opposite position (seems to be all he can do), jump off a bridge, and end the worst republican campaign ever.

    First the nut whack job from Alaska. Then the puppet sponge. What's next? Rush?

    September 13, 2012 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  10. Chedar

    I am disgusted with Romney. All along it is true, that Romney is not a president material. Always acting in desperation. A leader shows his concern and plan for the next move with calmness rather than ranting.

    September 13, 2012 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  11. Can't help but notice

    It is almost eerie how Mitt Romney's mannerisms remind me of Richard Nixon's....just saying!

    September 13, 2012 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  12. dajvet

    No, I don't see an apology. I do see a true statement that it's unfortunate the freedom of speech is sometimes abused by those wishing to hurt others. That's not an apology; that's a statement of truth. And any idiot knows that statement didn't cause any riots, that ill-conceived movie is causing the trouble. Only a group filled with hate, possibly a touch of greed, would produce such a film. They had to know it would cause problems for our people overseas.Rmoney is WRONG again. At least he's consistent, but that doesn't make him a leader. I wouldn't follow him to the dog pound.

    September 13, 2012 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  13. UDidntBuildThat

    Obama apologizes 1st then retract later when Americans are outraged. It is really sad how the Media was caught with their coordinating their questions on a live mic. There is no shame CNN,

    September 13, 2012 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  14. OBama Is Weak

    Obama has sown consistntly that he is a weak leader and now this couldnt of happened at a worse time for him. But dont worry he will be living it up with rappers and hip-hop people trying to get money this week with jayz and bouncie. Mitt Romney was the true president yesterday, and as far as Im concerened is the cting president while obama sells out for money. He will lose, has lost and is lost to America.

    September 13, 2012 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  15. Rick 7809

    Since Faux News doesn't allow comments on anything that will make Mittens look bad, I see all the Obama haters are now leaving their comments on their version of the facts on the CNN site. That my friends is Freedom of Speech.

    September 13, 2012 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  16. Nick

    Hello right wingers, as far as I can tell, there is no quote from Obama in the whole article, much less one where he apologizes to terrorists. The only quote from the Obama camp is a political one condeming Mitt Romneys quote. The very first statement was from the embassy in Cairo and probably just written by a junior foreign service officer surrounded by an angry mob of Egyptians.

    I mean, dont you realize youre just making stuff up? Its like your talking to an empty chair!

    September 13, 2012 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  17. Lip Service - nothing more

    @Justin Smithson,

    "Maybe the attacks where part of the security briefings. President Obama has only attended 43% of them?"

    And the other 57% were definitely not attended by Bush. In fact he skipped all of his, and the few ones he could not escaped he simply blew them OFF! That's why we are in this situation today. You are a hypochrite!

    September 13, 2012 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  18. PJ

    I question Romney's loyalty when he criticizes our President during a terror attack. Was he siding with the terrorists?

    September 13, 2012 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  19. snowdogg

    romney doesn't love america or he'd keep his mouth shut about this

    September 13, 2012 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  20. Wilson


    Wilson: if you live anywhere near a major US city and will provide your address, I know where you can get some homeless people who will be happy to mow your lawn, pull your weeds and sweep your driveway for $50. It may take them a bit longer than that little girl because they suffer from PTSD, but if they're having a good enough day to make it into the VA they can usually put in four or five hours of work. You are willing to pay minimum wage, right?
    Riiigggghhhhttttt, so you are saying all homeless people are Vets and have PTSD??? As usual, you on the left need to do some research and check your facts, without the spin.

    September 13, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  21. julie

    romney going DOWN......and take your krazy azz supporters with you HA

    OMIT MITT THE TWIT.....................looks like he's doing that by him self YES see ya in 2024 MIT THE SIMPLETON

    September 13, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  22. Rev. Richard

    I had not planned to vote in the presidential election because I thought we had such bad choices for candidates. But the more Romney opens his mouth, the more I think I will now vote for Obama.

    Omit Romney...

    September 13, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  23. snowdogg

    Romney could have looked patriotic and presidential but chose to assume his usual opportunist and confrontational self in this situation.

    September 13, 2012 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  24. Denny

    This attack had nothing to do with a stupid youtube video which we as Americans are free to create. The attack was planned and executed on 9/11 to hurt Americans. The video was just a convenient excuse, an aside, something Americans pay little attention to just as we do when someone publicizes a painting of Christ covered with feces. Our president should not be apologizing for the sometimes crazy results of our freedom of speech. Mitt Romney was right. The president should be apologizing to the American people for the mess he helped to create in Egypt and Libya which is now spreading throughout the mid east and Mitt Romney is probably the one who will have to deal with it, so yeah, he's angry.

    September 13, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  25. David

    Romney ALWAYS twists the facts... He's a politician who will do and say ANYTHING to get elected. He always has both hands on the knobs of his Etch a Sketch.

    Mitt "the twit" Romney... The Etch a Sketch candidate!!!!

    September 13, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 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