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. RC

    Here is all this shows. Romney has zero foreign policy experience as proven by his disasterous trip to Europe during the Olympics and now this. Then we learned he doesn't know how to speak to our friends in other countries. Now we learn he has no idea how to reposnd when we are under attack. Recall that on 9/11 all politicians in both parties came together to support the immediate need; there was plenty of time to point fingers and try to "benefit" from the problem after. He has acted like a true venture capitalist: "How can I benefit from a bad situation even before the facts can be discussed?"

    September 13, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  2. Roger

    Good job Romney helping us re-elect Obama and hopefully turn the House in 2012. Time to remove all obstructions to a recovery for our middle class.
    "Corporations are People"! Yep!

    September 13, 2012 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  3. ron

    How anyone can get an apology out of the embassy statement is beyond me. Making the statement they did only reiterates the belief that no one has the right to condem other peoples religon.
    Now to the moron some of you think is going to be your savior, to begin with to say anything about what your country is doing is an earned right, what has Mitt done to earn that right, let's see, he supported the Vietnam war but then ran off to France to convert everyone to mormonisn rather than back up his support for the war by enlisting to help. Just another example of how this idiot would react to real world problems, and if it did ever get to another war stage you can rest assured that none of his family will be in the line of fire. If you haven't figured it out this guy is counting on there being enough idiots around to elect him, then he will go back to what he thinks he does best, fattening his wallet and his kids already hard to explain trust fund, definately sounds like someone worth electing!!!

    September 13, 2012 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  4. oldbones24

    I'm from the Kennedy/Nixon era and something about this film bugs me. I would hate to find out, 10 years from now, that this movie was a "Wag the Dog" style political ploy. Nobody knows who made the film, Romney said he wanted to go to war in the Middle East, and an election is coming up. Look at how fast Romney jumped on it, like he already had a speach ready. It sets my wheels a turn 'n.

    September 13, 2012 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  5. john

    Romney was not wrong, Your twisted reporting is wrong, I have watch the nbc, fox, and cnn yesterday, and saw some of the most disgusting displays coming from reporters and commentators, They will twist anything they can just to win an election. I was in dismay at how they were more focused on attacking Romney than what had happened at our embassy, Our embassies were not protected as they should of been, these protests had been going on well before Romney said a word, knowing how things like this can escalate, there should of been increased protection at all of our embassies, 9/11, the current administration let let their guard down. Plain and siimple and all you people care about is how we can make romney look bad so we can win an election.

    September 13, 2012 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  6. Capt. Spaulding

    Romney's response should have been:
    “I not only support the right to free speech, I support the right to say stupid and vile things. My campaign depends on it!”

    September 13, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  7. hispeed

    Tilly – you might want to take your own advice and actually read the article before posting comments. The rest of your post is udderly absurd, just like Romney's BS.

    September 13, 2012 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  8. tuscany590

    Where is the CNN article & audio clip of the MSM drones coordinating their "gotcha" questions for Romney??

    September 13, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  9. J hicks

    Well it is interesting to know that R can not comprehend. Let Mr break it down for you. The attack came 4 hours after what talk like to call the 1 st response. I mean if rumny can not get that right what else do we expect. this is a man who introduced his running mate as the next president.

    September 13, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  10. Enrique

    Mitt Romney's political games in the face of a national tragedy are disgraceful. It is clear that he and his campaign are acting out of desperation.

    September 13, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  11. jimranes

    Romney is a twit when it comes to foreign affairs. He should have analyzed this horrific incident first before sticking his foot in his mouth yet again. He has to be the least qualified of any GOP candidate for President. What Presidential candidate would have several retirement accounts in known tax avoidance havens like the Caymans and Switzerland and think its OK to hold back his tax returns? What Presidential candidate makes $21 million a year essentially in dividend income and pays less than a 14% tax rate? The bottom line with Romney and the Ryan budget is that it is another attempt to shut down both Social Security and Medicare while turning over Medicaid over to the states. Personally I don't need any of those programs but it is obvious that at least half of retired Americans desperately need these programs to live.

    September 13, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  12. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Remember, folks, Willard has the same team of foreign policy advisers (less Dr. Rice) who so successfully lead Dubya around by the ring in his nose to make sure the interests of Haliburton were well represented.

    September 13, 2012 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  13. JD

    I just listened to audio of reporters coordinating questions designed to put Romney in an awkward position. And then heard it play out. I never believed the media was coordinated under the progressive movement until now.

    I've watched my reasoned positions for President Obama make it passed moderation, while positions against not make it. But people who shamelessly and/or ignorantly attack the president make it, and slant the argument.

    President Obama was never challenged during his campaign like this. He blasted president Bush every time from every angle.

    I always looked at that as FOX crying. After hearing those reporters. I'm not so sure they are completely off base that the media has an agenda beyond news.

    September 13, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  14. Bill

    Love how this article only references the Egypt and not Libyan portion of the timeline.... Easily duped liberal automatons...

    September 13, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  15. eguynationstaff

    Im a registered Republican and I have been finding it increasingly difficult to vote for Mitt. It infuriates me that he attacked the President in the middle of the Consulate Crisis. I know we are in an election battle but we have to work together as a country when we are attacked. To immediately point fingers and show our country as divided helps our enemies. That is NOT Presendential behavior. We are still at war and have enemies ready to pounce on us at any moment. Yes the economy is a big issue, but we need to keep our eye on the bigger picture, the safety and cohesiveness of our nation.

    September 13, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  16. HEHE

    LOL the only people who want Mittens to win are A) Rich and Greedy, B) Stupid, C) Want to watch the world burn.

    September 13, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  17. Anonymous

    'President' Romney and his statements: that's what you hear from a hack politician who's behind in the polls.

    September 13, 2012 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  18. Lyin Ryan should be an Olympian

    LOL at all the GOP folks on hear crying about CNN. That's the first page in the GOP spin manual. When the candidate is indefensible, blame the media for covering him/her.
    Get better GOP, not bitter. Until you give your party a makeover, you will be losing Presidential elections. The country is becoming more diversified by the way, the ballot box beatings will only get worse until you learn how to play nice with voters that are not primarily angry old white men.

    September 13, 2012 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  19. tp1776

    'President' Romney and his statements: that's what you hear from a hack politician who's behind in the polls

    September 13, 2012 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  20. Anonymous

    If he's elected, he'll start 2 more wars, totally bankrupt the country, and then fly off to Switzerland to count his money.

    September 13, 2012 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  21. joe

    According to the timeline, Obama's first response was aimed at Romney, not the attackers. It's always election first for Obama.

    September 13, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  22. Lyin Ryan should be an Olympian


    Trust Obama???? He went golf years and do nothing with Libya War since and watch do nothing with them.. Why you voter for Obama can trust with world???? Right now He send USA War ship??? What kind delay his mind??? He send because he wanted back his Voter?"?? He is not fit second term and should quit job!!! He failed Iran , egpty, and libya?? He better off white house peroid. Vote other Predident!!
    This is the prototypical GOP voter. Ouch. Wow. Just wow.
    I'll proudly be a liberal elite compared to this any - no EVERY day.
    So much misinformation in a little post.
    don't ever try to compare Obama's days off to any recent GOP President. You will not like the results. The rest of what you were trying to say is not able to be deciphered. Get a basic education, then come back and try again.

    September 13, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  23. snowdogg

    Mitt is way out of his element here... and other substantive issues of national importance.

    September 13, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  24. Barry from Wisconsin

    Romney is pathetic – a desperate liar. Responsible political leaders do NOT use foreign conflict as a stepping stone to political gain. Clearly he is unqualified to lead the USA…..

    September 13, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  25. HEHE

    The fact that Mitt Romney has any support at all makes me a very sad person. Be anti-Obama all you want but Mitt Romney is NOT THE ANSWER.

    September 13, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
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