Here’s how the fact checkers at the Associated Press assessed Romney’s claims:
“The gunfire at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, had barely ceased when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney seriously mischaracterized what had happened in a statement accusing President Barack Obama of “disgraceful” handling of violence there and at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. [...]
“In fact, neither a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo earlier in the day nor a later statement from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton offered sympathy for attackers. The statement from the Cairo Embassy had condemned anti-Muslim religious incitement before the embassy walls were breached. In her statement, issued minutes before Romney’s, Clinton had offered the administration’s first response to the violence in Libya, explicitly condemning the attack there and confirming the death of a State Department official.”
In a widely circulated photo, Romney was seen walking away from the podium at his press conference, which was ostensibly about the murder of four Americans, with a smirk on his face.
Romney Roundly Criticized
The criticism of Romney was swift and severe.
Members of the media were not shy about underscoring the seriousness of what they viewed as a major misstep. NBC News political director Chuck Todd called it a “bad mistake.” Former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan said, “I don’t feel that Mr. Romney has been doing himself any favors.” Time’s Mark Halperin called Romney’s actions “the most craven and ill-advised move of 2012.” Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter said politicizing a national tragedy was “not just dumb but a sign of desperation.”
But it wasn’t just the media who were attacking Romney for injecting politics into a crisis. Republican foreign policy experts got in on the action, variously saying Romney was an “utter disaster,” “not presidential,” and “not ready for primetime.” One even referred to the blowup as Romney’s “Lehman moment,” a reference to the moment in September 2008 when Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign went off the rails after McCain declared that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong” following the collapse of Lehman Brothers and ensuing market crash.
Editorial boards across the country have also been savaging Romney:
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “That baseless criticism calls into question not only his judgment but also his sensitivity, sense of decency and even his humanity.”
- The Virginian-Pilot: “Romney’s vile assertion…is so far beyond the pale, so far beyond the bounds of American civil discourse that the Republican candidate should be ashamed of himself.”
- Reno Gazette-Journal: “Romney’s statement was ill-considered, ill-timed and politically opportunistic.”
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “inexcusable…vile…untrue”
- Kansas City Star: “Romney’s inflammatory foreign policy accusations — reiterated on Wednesday — serve no one, especially in light of the tragic deaths.”
- Raleigh News & Observer: “criticism of the president so hasty and poorly informed that it reeks of political opportunism amidst a deadly crisis”
- Charlotte Observer: “shameful…inaccurate and inappropriate”
- Washington Post: “A discredit to his campaign”
- New York Times: “An extraordinary lack of presidential character”
- Los Angeles Times: “An outrageous exercise in opportunism.”
- Boston Globe: “His statement was offensive on many other levels…Romney’s actions raise more doubts about himself than Obama.”
- Miami Herald: “Profoundly inappropriate”
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Yes, it was sad and pathetic to see such callous and uninformed statements from politicians who couldn’t wait until they had the facts to use an international incident for political gain.”
Even one of Romney’s own top advisers told the New York Times that Romney “had forgotten the first rule in a crisis: don’t start talking before you understand what’s happening.”
More Smears from the Romney Campaign
Despite the withering criticism from all sides, the Romney campaign has continued to launch new attacks on the president even as our embassies continue to be under siege from angry mobs:
The attacks were caused by Obama’s alleged but non-existent “apologies” for America.
Obama’s weakness, “equivocation” and “mixed signals” invited the attacks, a charge repeated by Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan today.
That President Obama was to blame for the murders and they would not have happened if Romney was president.
BOTTOM LINE: Rather than follow the example of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush who refused to politicize the Iran hostage crisis during the 1980 campaign, Romney has instead chosen to inject politics into a national tragedy and ongoing crisis.