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. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Mitt, just throw in the towel and go back to Utah. The American people have had enough of your lies and stupid comments. You could not shine Mr. Obama's shoes.

    September 12, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. sj14850

    In other news Mitt Rmoney launched a scathing attack on Obama for the 300% increase in US debt - during the Reagan Presidency.

    September 12, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  3. A Humble Perspective

    It is funny how people talk about Romney with no foreign policy experience. Just how much did Obama have in 2008. Obama was a community organizier (which is short for fundraiser) who certain people trusted to be the President. Now look at us.

    September 12, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  4. tstorm92

    Romney, your comments are offensive and ignorant. Once again you show how you are not prepared to be president.

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

    He is that inept and out of touch. Believe it. It looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck...DUCK!

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

    Now now. Did you really expect MlTT the TWlT to care about facts? He might as well have said I'd support Al Qaeda if it means I can score a cheap political point against President Obama.

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

    Mitt is starting to make Sarah Palin look like Henry Kissinger.

    September 12, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  8. RJ1008

    Mitt and Lying Ryan already made it clear that facts doesn't matter for their campaign.

    September 12, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  9. K. C. Albak

    For a presidential candidate to rush to judgment in this way is scary. It's most likely an act of desperation, due to recent poll results, complaints from his conservative "supporters', and running out of time to define his own "image", which so far bears a resemblance to a ball of Play-Doh being rolled over the Sunday comic section.

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

    Romney and Ryan = America's Ruin

    September 12, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  11. bertha59

    Romney is such a liar! He knows that the conservatives will buy into what he says without checking the facts first. That is what is so scary about this guy. Remember W? You know the guy who fabricated WMD's in Iraq just so he could have his way? Look what the mess created. The way Romney is talking I would not put it past him, if he is elected, that he will get the US involved in another invasion of another country just because he wants his way.
    I am glad that CNN put the timeline in. Thanks.

    September 12, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  12. Bob Alan

    I have a real problem with attacking the president rather then supporting our country wrt the attacks. I would have thought the GOP would have been more tactical about when to attack and when to support. A real mistake on their part. I support the current administration on their handling of this attack on our sovereign soil (embassy). Why were the protesters in Egypt essentially unarmed while the attack in Libya armed with mortars and rocket propelled grenades; looks contrived. I suspect that other were behind these attacks. Having watched Mitt Romney as my governor, I am less then impressed with his ability as with his flexibility to bend with any position at any moment that could be self serving.

    September 12, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  13. tstorm92

    Romney your ignorance of international politics is only surpassed by your personal bigotry. Romney, you would make an AWFUL president.

    September 12, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  14. FactCheck

    Just keep you nose clean Mitt,
    You may want to step away from the cocaine yourself there buddy.

    September 12, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  15. hemuda

    Does Mr Romney want our embassies in troubled country to be combative against people of the country who felt offended by the movie which incite religious feelings of those people? Wouldn't that worsen the situation for officials in embassies? What do your expect the officials to say to calm down situation? I can't believe a presidential nominee would attack the people who are doing their best to represent our interest.

    September 12, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  16. Not Surprised!!

    No comments from BoyBlunder (Ryan)?? I guess Lyin Ryan is avoiding this foreign policy disaster of Romney's like it's bubonic plague! I guess Mitt's whirlwind "Total Disaster Tour" this summer to Europe just wasn't enough for the ole' boy he had to go for platinum and totally humilate & embarrass himself Nationally as well as Globally once again! Totally disgusting Romney!

    My Prayers and condolences go out to the family of the American's who lost their lives in the Lybian Embassy.

    September 12, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  17. Rick in Phx

    As an independent Romney pretty much handed Obama my vote awhile back. If the republican party had offered a "real candidate" I think the election would be as close as the media is trying to convince us. It doesn't seem the republican party chose a candidate for this election. It appears they just "settled" with Mitt Romney. Hopefully the republican party will get their act together sometime in the near future.

    September 12, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  18. ElhannonVA

    What was really creepy was Romney's inappropriate gleefulness and smirking during his press conference this morning. Can any of you Romney supporters tell us why he was smiling while talking about American casualties?

    September 12, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  19. Mike

    There are only three things that matter to Mitt Romney: his religion, his tax returns, and being president. His positions on these are unchanging. Anything that challenges these three positions, including history, science, mathematics, and logic can be altered – it's just a question of how much money is required. I've supervised, worked with, and worked for people who grew up rich. They are always right, just like Mitt.

    September 12, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  20. TheTraveler

    Mitt Romney is rapidly closing in on "The Worse President in US History Award" and he doesn't even hold the office! Anyone, and I mean anyone, who doesn't see the kind of Presidency that the Romney/Ryan ticket would bring to the US is either incredibly blind or incredibly stupid. I'm beginning to believe the man has psychological problems telling the truth.

    Laughably, I'll bet the Big Money that is behind him are just having conniption fits right now. Every time Romney opens his mouth, his ratings drop even lower ... Karl Rove must be suicidal by now ...

    September 12, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  21. Dan

    Willard could not stop smiling when talking about this when making his outrage know.

    September 12, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  22. Catherine

    I read the statement from the Embassy. Doesn't sound like an apology to me. Sounds more like they were critcizing the people who made the film for insulting the Muslims. What's wrong with that?

    September 12, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  23. Bousan

    Obama got caught sleeping on all days on 9/11 when you think the US would have been alert. Too busy campaigning to attend national security meetings or meet with Israel.

    September 12, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  24. Real Patriot

    First he says 9/11 isn't for negative political attacks...then he falsely attacks Obama. When confronted with the facts that prove his attack false, he doubles down...This man has not one conviction in his body and can not tell the truth. He stands for nothing and will say anything he thinks you want to hear. Just what we need, a Liar in Chief!

    September 12, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  25. suhaili

    Romney forgot he is not the president of the united states (hopeful never will). so stop confuse the world with your own version of what happened and when regarding our foreign missions! on going foreign affairs are none of your business, ex-governor!

    September 12, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
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