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. JeffinIL

    Twisting? That is very generous of the author. Call it what it is, this is flat-out lying.

    September 12, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  2. wanda

    Wow, MItt Romney needs to be replaced!!

    September 12, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  3. Izzy

    Obama is Jimmy Carter! 2012 = 1979! Imagine this - the Obama government sanctioned the Arab Spring and the reverand Wright's chickens are coming home to roost. If we re-elect Obama, we as a nation will deserve what we get.

    September 12, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  4. PTNY

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

    September 12, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  5. israel

    Give me a break. Really? Is this news? After two of our embassy's are breached on 9/11? The timeline of Mitt's statement in reference to two tweets? Lets focus on why it happened in the first place and HOW NO ONE WAS PREPARED, especially on the anniversary of 9/11.

    September 12, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  6. headlessthompsongunner

    Great job Gumby!!! Thanks for making the presidential choice even more clear.

    September 12, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    If anyone is at fault here, it's the idiotic Pastor Terry Jones who produced this film knowing full well it would be throwing a match on the gasbomb, and he did it for his own nutball agenda, risking American lives.

    September 12, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  8. Hillcrester

    This exposes Romney's unpreparedness in foreign relations. And to do it, he put himself off-message during a time when he desperately needs to recover from a decidedly less effective nominating convention.

    September 12, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  9. Peyton Johnson

    I cannot believe that Romney dove right in as our representatives overseas were killed to once again attack the President; twisting the facts (which is an improvement to his normal lying or filibustering) to try and convince the American public that they should vote for him. I wish the Republicans could find a decent candidate to run. You would think that he is actually campaigning FOR Obama instead of running against him. Keep letting that dribble run out of your mouth Romney and Obama will win hands down. Can't wait for the debates to see what a fool you make of yourself. You can't duck and retract during the debates so I'm warming up the popcorn! This is going to be good.

    September 12, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  10. brian

    If anyone is at fault here, it's the idiotic Pastor Terry Jones who produced this film knowing full well it would be throwing a match on the gasbomb, and he did it for his own nutball agenda, risking American lives.

    September 12, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  11. Mark

    Romney not having any back ground information and he and Ryan is speaking out against Obama. This action shows Romney is not mature enough to be our leader. He is an attack dog, without the facts and trying to win votes.

    September 12, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  12. mommytwice

    He understands NOTHING about foreign policy. This is a situation where the REAL president needs to handle things. Sit down and shut up, Mitt, then when the grown ups are done you can talk again. What an idiot

    September 12, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  13. just sayin

    anybody else find it extremely bizarre and unprofessional that a state dept. person would be tweeting statements or responses? and that the ambassador hadn't signed off on released statements?? they should have been able to be reached at a moments notice in this day and age. who the heck is running the embassy over there anyways???

    September 12, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  14. 2008-2016

    This clown doesn't even sound sincere. In his opportunistic haste to to get elected, the idiot forgot about diplomacy and
    global concerns. People actually view this moron as Presidential? What a joke.

    September 12, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. Izzy

    Huge Jass - What was Michael Moore's doctored Fahrenheit 9/11??? A love letter to W? If your 21st century Jimmy Carter can't be bothered to defend real American issues, he deserves to lose. Stop protecting the incompetent Jimmy Carter the 2nd!

    September 12, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  16. tim

    Not only did Romney miss the time lines, I am sickened and amazed that Romney would use a tragedy such as this to make a polical attack. A true American, which he claims he is, would make a statement condeming the attackers and rally around the idea that we will not back down in the face of terrorism. I didn't see it in the write up, but did he even express his condolences to the familties of thos killed in the attack?

    September 12, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  17. GMP

    Romney is ridiculous... several American's lost their lives serving our country and he wants to twist things to play political games... Romney the only foreign experience you have is with your hidden bank accounts in the Caymans and your prissy vacations to beautiful parts of the world. Your "foreign tour" 6 weeks ago was a joke... no foreign policy was discussed, you touched toe to say.. "yeah, I have been to these foreign nations"... no one gave a shi% you were there.

    September 12, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  18. ep451

    Romney is an Ambulance Chaser!! He can’t wait for some accident to happen to jump up and blame the current administration!!. What he did last night even before he knew the facts was DISGUISTING!! These are moments to show resolve and unity not petty partisanship!! Romney is a SMALL MAN and should not even be in this presidential race. The GOP backs him just because they hate Obama so much (listen to Rush) they would vote for the devil himself!!!

    September 12, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    So now the attack on the embasy is Romneys fault. When that fades it will be Bushes fault. Romney is right the President apoligized for the video that was sourced from the US.... Harry Reid: "It happens all over the world" as if it is no big deal.. You liberal drones need to wake up and shut your pie holes

    September 12, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  20. mauidano

    Can hardly wait for the debates. Hopefully Mitt will get his foot out of his mouth in time to put it right back in for the world to see. He's making W. look like a genius.

    September 12, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  21. Steven

    This article is from the "CNN political unit".

    I think it should be spelled out that this isn't a news article, and it isn't journalism in any way whatsoever. It's merely a political communique from a group of Obama supporters working at CNN. And it has just about zero value, except to demonstrate how in any cult of personality, reality is irrelevant.

    September 12, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  22. lobo joe

    Willard, even submitting your tax returns won't erase this faux pas. As Oliver Hardy would say, " This is another fine mess you've gotten yourself( sic) into."

    September 12, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. DB

    To Romney "Foreign Policy" is insurance he takes out on his Swiss bank account!

    September 12, 2012 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  24. JEd

    Beavis Romney has no right to criticize the President – he's only a pretend candidate.....

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

    Wait! Does this mean Mitt isn't mad at Russia anymore?

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