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. Proud American

    Well having heard the first response I find nothing that Romney said to be wrong. But what I find more disgusting is how the press seems to try and insult the intelligence of Americans by doing things just like this

    September 12, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  2. Ya

    Romney have no presidential style, don't know how to control his mouth. President Romney? no oooooooooooooooo!

    September 12, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Dig it, Mitt. Dig your campaign a nice deep grave.

    September 12, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  4. Wil V

    Mitt Romney is clearly not Presidential and an amateur. I don't think anything more needs to be said.

    September 12, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  5. DaveC

    You know what Mitt, screw you. An ambassador died and his family is in mourning and you choose to make the event all about politics instead of keeping your trap shut and supporting the President of the United States. It's real easy to whine and complain about things when you have absolutely no responsibility and know nothing about what is really going on. You are a real tool. For those of you who are keeping count this is like the sixth time in seven days this clown has stuck his foot in his mouth. Can anyone really say this guy is ready to be President?

    He should have been railing against the idiot who produced the video that started this nonsense. Doesn't that guy have anything better to do with his money? Are there not hungry people in America to feed and clothe? Instead Mitt the clueless just proves once again he just isn't ready to lead a pack of wild dogs to a piece of meat.

    September 12, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  6. mike

    The embassy statement didn't apologize for free speech either. Romney is just a twit.

    September 12, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  7. joshua

    The democrats celebrated 21 times the killing of Osama Bin Laden during their convention last week. When the islamist terrorists were bombing our embassies, they were chanting OBAMA, OBAMA we have a billion OSAMAs. This was a direct response against the mixed up foreign policy of our president. You can't spin it any other way as hard as you might try. The facts are out there for all to see.

    September 12, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  8. Patrick

    And here I thought ZRomney had little grasp of foreign affairs. i was wrong. He has NO grasp of foreign affairs, save for where he can stash his wealth.

    September 12, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  9. Michelle

    If there was nothing wrong with the statements that came out of our embassy in Cairo (and yes, they were in fact apologies!), why have they since been deleted? And let's be honest CNN (as hard as that is for you), it wasn't just Romney who took offense at the apology – the embassy was blasted in Twitter for apologizing. They DELETED all the tweets – that tells you everything.

    September 12, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  10. ghostriter

    10:30 am! Are you serious? If that is when the message was releases, Mitt is simply wrong. Did it every occur to them that MAYBE these folks were trying to save their lives? Especially AFTER the place was being stormed? Should they have stood on the front steps, wrapped in a flag and fight?

    September 12, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  11. alien

    Get a clue mitt then come back after another 4 years, so you can be embarassed by Ms. Clinton

    September 12, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  12. Izzy

    LOL! This tripe is hilarious considering that in 2008 Obama had ZERO foreign policy experience. Obama could not even secure the Olympics for Chicago! We don't need Obama learning on the job any more. By the way as a state governor and a head of the 2002 Olympic committee, Mitt Romney had to deal with foreign issues. Something the agitator-in-chief never did. Stop covering for our Jimmy Carter II !

    September 12, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  13. IggyDad

    The man has no shame. If a Democrat made a comment like this during a GOP presidency they would be shrieking "Treason!"

    September 12, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  14. Vic of New York

    This guy is a CLOWN. He is sponsored by a Republican Party that has become a FREAK CIRCUS. He is funded by some of the lowest BOTTOM FEEDERS of our nation (the treasonous Karl Rove, and greed brothers Koche). Mitt Romney is a snake who appeals to the lowest echelon of our society – the religious fanatic, racist, bigoted, jingoist, Right-Wing Extremists.

    September 12, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  15. Seth Hill

    A Liberal, a Conservative, a Military Hawk, and a Military Dove walk into a bar. The bartender says, "What'll you have, Gov. Romney?"

    September 12, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  16. John

    Mitt Romney Is either Lying or Flip-Flopping, This guy wouldn't know the Truth If It bite on his back side. This man can't be Trusted at all.

    September 12, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  17. PTNY

    Divine intervention...

    I thank GOD for Romney's Leadership in bringing down the entire Republican Party!

    September 12, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  18. rob

    Don't back down Romney. The Democrats attack dogs in the media are trying to make this a controversy when there is none.

    September 12, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  19. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    Willard the Weathervane spins again.

    September 12, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  20. therealbartonfunk

    Romney joined the group Soulless II Soulless and they have a new song "Keep on Lying." I hope the American people are tired of this mans refusal to give any specifics about what he would do if elected and then also lying about things others say or do. He is repugnant and as far as I am concerned he can take him million and his boat and go move to the Cayman Islands. We'd be better off in American without him. Even GOP and Tea Party members should feel ashamed that he is their candidate.

    September 12, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  21. Margo

    Give it a rest Romney, you are wrong and just not man enough to admit it and you want to be president. Go home and count your money and leave us alone, you are not ready for the Presidential office.

    September 12, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  22. gregory21

    Finally see his true colors.Say anything to get a vote.

    September 12, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  23. Ed in Reno, Nevada

    Fear not, Mitt will change his position at least three more times and then ask the polls what they think he should believe.

    September 12, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  24. teej

    Republicans, please... think of it as taking one for the team. People all over the world are watching this stuff.

    September 12, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  25. DrIncognito

    I expect politicians to twist things. It's as natural to them as breathing is to the rest of us. But this goes well beyond "twisting". At best it's a grossly misinformed statement, at worst it's a lie.

    September 12, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
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