Mitt Romney reiterated on Wednesday his condemnation of President Obama’s response to an attack on a diplomatic compound in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, accusing Obama of apologizing to Islamic miltants.
In a press conference delivered minutes after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the attacks, Romney expanded on his initial statement, in which he said the administration’s first response was “to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
“We join together in the condemnation of attacks on the American embassies and the loss of American life and join in sympathy for these people,”Romney said. “It’s also important for me — just as it was for the White House, last night by the way — to say that the statements were inappropriate, and in my view a disgraceful statement on the part of our administration to apologize for American values.”
It was the second time in just over 12 hours that Romney had suggested the White House sided with rioters and militants. Romney’s initial statement came late Tuesday, after news had broke that an American officer had been killed in Libya, but before the State Department had confirmed Stevens was among the dead. It inaccurately suggested that the U.S. embassy in Cairo, which also came under attack, had issued a statement condemning an anti-Muslim film online that had sparked the riots as its “first response” to the violence. In fact, the embassy and multiple press reports assert that the statement came before the protests and was intended to head off a confrontation.
The White House also distanced itself from the initial embassy statement, saying it was not approved by Washington, and issued a tougher condemnation of the violence from Clinton the same night.
Confronted by reporters about his apparently contradictory chronology, Romney said on Wednesday that his attack was fair because the embassy’s Twitter feed later stood by its initial statement after the protests escalated (it also condemned the breach of its grounds). Those tweets were later deleted.
“The president takes responsibility not just for the words that come from his mouth but also for the words that come from his ambassadors from his administration, from his embassies, from the State Department,” he said. “They clearly sent mixed messages to the world, and the statement that came from the administration, and the embassy is the administration. The statement that came from the administration was a statement which is akin to apology and I think was a severe miscalculation.”
Romney defended his decision to condemn the president even when the facts and chronology were still unclear.
“I don’t think we ever hesitate when we see something which is a violation of our principles,” he said.
Romney declined to answer whether he would have said the same thing on Tuesday if he had known that Stevens had been killed in the attack.
“I’m not going to take hypothetical what would have been known when and so forth,” he said. “We responded last night to the events that happened in Egypt.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.