The Romney campaign continued to play defense Thursday morning for a misleading statement issued late Tuesday night about the attacks on Americans in Egypt and Libya, using already debunked talking points to claim that Mitt Romney responded appropriately to the unfolding attacks on Americans in the Middle East on Tuesday.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), a top campaign surrogate, continued to muddle the facts in an appearance on “CBS This Morning” while defending Romney’s original statement, claiming that Romney’s remarks had been a response only to the statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and mixing up the actual timeline of events that occurred.
Portman denied that Romney had jumped the gun by condemning the president before all the facts were known by explaining, falsely, that Romney was only responding to events in Egypt and not Libya. “Well, first, the statement was made the night before we knew about the deaths of those four brave Americans in Libya,” Portman said. “So, it was in relationship not to what happened in Libya but, of course, what happened in Egypt, a statement from the U.S. government, the first statement that came out.”
But Romney’s original statement explicitly mentioned Libya and the one American death that had already been reported Tuesday night:
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.
The Romney camp has acknowledged that the Romney statement came before he had any knowledge that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and two other staffers had also been killed.
Romney has also been criticized for getting the order of events wrong in his statement because he asserted that President Obama had “sympathize[d]” with those attacking Americans abroad even though the statement Romney cited (which came from the embassy itself and not from the White House) was issued before any attacks took place. As the course of events became better-known throughout the day Wednesday, it became clear that the statement from the embassy condemning a U.S.-made film about Islam was a preventative measure intended to pre-empt a violent reaction.
Nonetheless, Portman continued Thursday morning to push an order of events at odds with the facts on the ground:
“The first statement that came out, and it said, at its start, ‘we apologize.’ And I think most Americans, Charlie, would look at that and say, ‘gosh, that’s not the appropriate response when your embassy is assaulted, when the American flag taken down and two Islamic flags put up over American territory and lives were in jeopardy,’” Portman said. “So the statement was very clear. It just said, the American government ought not to be issuing an apology. We ought to be condemning these attacks.”
During the interview with Portman, CBS’s Norah O’Donnell explained to him the actual chronology of events, asking, “Do you know that?”
Portman conceded that he was unaware of how the events took place, but continued to defend Romney’s response in generally the same way. “No, I was not aware it was issued before there were any attacks,” Portman said. “I still think, Norah, you know, it implies that somehow the attacks could be justified by, again, a video.”
Portman seemed to again forget the timeline as he continued to defend Romney: “And I think for Gov. Romney, having seen that statement, to react as he did is the reaction that most Americans would have, which is that, at a time when we have this kind of violence against American territory, the thing to do is condemn it. And not to begin by issu[ing] an apology, again, about a video …”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.