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. fryuujin

    this is not just politics, nobody knew exactly what had happened and who, if anyone had been killed, yet Romney used this horrific event to attack Obama. Now that we know, it shows how out of touch he is and what a major POS he is. Add Fox AGAIN to the "news" network of no principles, since they tried to spin Romney's terrible remarks and beyond low life timing

    September 13, 2012 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  2. luckjoe

    Romney was absolutely right. Regretfully, CNN cannot accept any acurate criticism of BO.

    September 13, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  3. LR

    Shameful! A disgrace! Romney is making a fool of himself and this country. We need a cool head in times like this and I'm relieved Obama is calling the shots. Romney is a warmonger and showed poor judgement reacting the way he did.

    September 13, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  4. julie

    ole mit is losing ground fast can he be any more pitiful I mean really he is just an azz and this couldn't happen to a better man............he desreves what he gets...........even repubs are dropping him -thought that did support him admit it mit supporters your man is a well a chump he KNOW NOTHING about being a president he makes himself look so stupid
    his money makers rove & superpac folks put a hold on giving him more $$$...

    VOTE RICH LIVE POOR OMIT MIT mitt supporters just stay home on nov 6 REAL AMERICANS GOT THIS

    September 13, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  5. ll

    Mitt Romney shot first and aimed later. He is the epitome of a dangerous loose cannon.

    September 13, 2012 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  6. Thewidow@thiswidowswords

    How low do you need to be in order to exploit the deaths of four American civil servants? How unpatriotic is that?

    September 13, 2012 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  7. Thewidow@thiswidowswords

    Way to exploit the deaths if four civil servants for political gain. Gee so unpatriotic and unamerican romney.

    September 13, 2012 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  8. kim

    Most of you are missing the point, which is, you can not apply logic, or critical thinking, to Romney and make it work. He only knows and says what he is told by his handlers, the same way your pet dog doesn't know any cool tricks because you didn't teach it any. This is basic Republican stuff that you need to know before trying to present a case for your candidate.

    September 13, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  9. Thewidow@thiswidowswords

    Does anyone else find it unpatriotic to exploit the deaths of civil servants for political gain?

    September 13, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  10. julie

    WOW reading some of the comments from romney supporters you guys are as bad as your man............he makes a fool of himself and his followers make even bigger fools of themselves by denying his *uck ups- as well......THATS RIGHT uphold your man......did any of you boobs read any news paper this morning...........I mean ALL news paper are on mitts azz for being a fool EVE FAUX news is crying DAMN now that reall bad

    NOW show us how REALLY smart you followers are by making stupid unwarrented attacks on our President makes you look like your man mitt and that's not a good thing so sad just so sad


    September 13, 2012 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  11. Bob

    Romney looked very presidential. He made the RIGHT statements and shows that he supports America. Obama made his usual apology statements then tried to retract them. Meanwhile, the media went after Romney and defended Obama.

    September 13, 2012 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  12. avalanche

    in the spirit of CNN's "what we have learned series"

    1) We have learned that the reporters covering Romney collude to make him look bad.

    2) We have learned that if Romney criticizes a statement that the President later disavows, then CNN will claim Romney was wrong for criticizing the same statement that Obama disavows.

    3) We have learned that if the administration deletes a twitter then according to CNN it never happened and anyone who criticized it before it was deleted was wrong to have done so.

    4) We have confirmed that CNN is just another part of the Obama campaign.

    3) We have lea

    September 13, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  13. dave

    This is where the road leads us when we follow the liberal agenda. A world of political correctness where insult is followed by murder. The only family values demonstrated by democrats is the redefining of the word family. The liberal agenda is a slow deathblow to our country and our way of life.

    September 13, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  14. Mark

    If you watched the press conference he was postering an attempting to look like a leader and was totally out of his comfort zone doing so. His body language was wrong and seemed overtly prepared. From the outside we can criticise any standing leader, blame and point fingers the fact remains no one of us commenting is capable of leading a country or better yet complaining and blaming every sound bite we hear and intensify it with our rgetoric. We all have some Karl Rove in us. Its time the GOP own up to the American People if theywant the White House. Its the ECONOMY STUPID

    September 13, 2012 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  15. TAK

    As far as I am concerned Mitt Romney really performed badly on this issue. He made a blatant attempt to gain political advantage over Obama by using the blood of dead American citizens abroad. How self-centered and disgraceful can a presidential candidate be? He showed no class, no thoughtfulness, and no restraint ... in short he managed to do exactly the opposite of what he should have done. These are the signs of a truly desperate person.

    September 13, 2012 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  16. Marty, FL

    Romney has shown again that he is not ready for foreign policy, sadly choosing irresponsible reaction for selfish politics instead of waiting for all of the facts.

    And even after facts were revealed, Romney chose to double down again on his lies. Unbelievable behavior and not presidential material.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones affected by the tragic loss.

    September 13, 2012 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  17. Obama 2012

    Mitt has not really changed much since his juvenile days. Remember that poor kid Mitt bullied and attacked violently in his high school? Well Mitt assumed that that kid was not worthy because he did not reflect the image that Mitt believed was conforming to his standards. He prejudged him. Prejudicial. Now Mitt the same guy he is today as he always was is again prejudging an incident and assuming one thing prior to collecting truth and facts. Clearly not presidential material. If a majority of the intelligent citizens vote in this years elections, i have no doubt that it will be a landslide victory for Obama/Biden for 2012.

    September 13, 2012 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  18. mccainin4

    This is a sickening ploy to rile up the passions of devout Muslims IN THEIR OWN COUNTRIES. President Obama has made terrific progress squeezing Iran in everyway possible, including erasing their friends off the face of the Earth. Now, how can we possibly defend Israel's attack on Iran's atomic weapons facilities? Romney understood this, and still treated a developing situation as an opportunity to throw more gas on the fire instead of helping to balance our foreign missions (aka Iran). Romney needs to understand damn quick that he is setting new rules of misconduct that Democrats will quite willingly throw back every time the opportunity arises, and use his same words against him.

    September 13, 2012 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  19. JL. Taylor

    Mr Obama has shown our nation time and time again that he is right man for the job.
    Romney has revealed himself to be a rich clown.

    September 13, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  20. Pillin5

    Thinking! We finally has some one in the White house doing that. The GoP candidate did not think before getting into this. Way beyond his gravitas.

    September 13, 2012 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  21. Anonymous

    CNN= Communist News Network

    September 13, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  22. bilk7

    Mitt Romney outright lied to the American people. He should immedaitely fire his advisors and he should apologize to the President and the country for his lies and to the families of those murdered for the disrespect he showed them and the deceased.

    September 13, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  23. pprty

    Shut up Romney!!!

    September 13, 2012 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  24. helen1233

    Where are all the Republican legislators condemning Romney for his reckless comments... and where is the CNN article about those that have?

    September 13, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  25. Daninmo


    Have you noticed the more in the tank you go for Obama the lower your ratings go... Show some balance. Arn't we under President Obama? Shouldn't this call into question our reliance on his approach to the Middle east. Shouldn't he be preparing more than an apology. Yet the only comments you make are a pre-emptive defense by attacking a political opponant?

    September 13, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
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