Fox Rallies Around Romney For Widely Criticized Libya Remarks

Fox News came to Mitt Romney's defense after his response to the attack on American diplomats in Libya was seen by many as an “attempt to score political points” and widely condemned, even by fellow Republicans.

Romney: Obama Administration “Sympathize[d] With Those Who Waged The Attacks”

Romney: Obama Administration's Handling Of Issue “Akin To An Apology.” Following the attack on United States diplomats in Libya, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a statement accusing President Obama of “sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks” instead of “condemn[ing] attacks on our diplomatic missions.” From The New York Times:

Mitt Romney on Wednesday took aim at the Obama administration's handling of unfolding developments in the Mideast, including the death of an American ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, accusing the administration of a “severe miscalculation” and calling its handling of the matter “akin to an apology.”


“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,” Mr. Romney said in a statement that went out just before 10:30 p.m. “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.”

Mr. Romney's comments were referring to a statement released by the American Embassy in Cairo that condemned an American-made Web film denouncing Islam -- the catalyst for the protests and violence in Cairo. However, the embassy's statement was released in an effort to head off the violence, not after the attacks, as Mr. Romney's statement implied. (Though the embassy staff in Cairo later said on Twitter that their original statement “still stands” -- a Tweet they then tried to delete -- the Obama administration disavowed the embassy's statement).


On Wednesday, Mr. Romney canceled a campaign event so he could address the crisis.

“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 at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation,” Mr. Romney said at the Wednesday morning press conference. “An apology for America's values is never the right course.”

Asked if politics should come to a halt in the wake of the deaths of four Americans, Mr. Romney replied: “We have a campaign for presidency of the United States and are speaking about the different courses we would each take with regards to the challenges that the world faces.” [The New York Times, 9/12/12]

Romney's Response Was Widely Condemned

David Frum: “Romney Campaign's Attempt To Score Political Points On The Killing Of American Diplomats Was A Dismal Business In Every Respect.” The Daily Beast's David Frum criticized Romney for his “attempt to score political points” following the attack on a U.S. embassy that led to the killing of an American diplomat:

Politicians must pander, it goes with the job. But they mustn't leave their fingerprints all over their pandering. The Romney campaign's attempt to score political points on the killing of American diplomats was a dismal business in every respect. Disregarding every other aspect, however, it was graceless and stupid as a matter of politics. [The Daily Beast, 9/12/12]

WSJ Highlights Republican Criticism Of Mitt Romney's Response. A Wall Street Journal blog post cited several Republicans who “took the GOP presidential nominee to task” for his attack on Obama. In addition to Frum, the post cited such prominent Republicans as former senior adviser to Senator John McCain's presidential campaign Steve Schmidt, former McCain speechwriter Mark Salter, and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan for their criticism of Romney. [Washington Wire, The Wall Street Journal, 9/12/12]

Wash. Post: “Romney Takes Hits From Fellow Republicans.” Like The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post highlighted some of the criticism coming from Republicans for his response to the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Libya and Egypt. The Post highlighted remarks from Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers, who said Romney “bobbled” his response to the attacks, and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who said Romney was “right on the larger point,” but “I probably would have waited a day or half a day.” [The Washington Post, 9/12/12]

WSJ's Peggy Noonan: “Romney Looked Weak” And “Like Richard Nixon.” In a Wall Street Journal video, columnist Peggy Noonan pointed out that “I don't think [Romney] did himself any favors” in his remarks on the violence, adding, “Romney looked weak today, I feel ... at one point, he had a certain slight grimace on his face when he was taking tough questions from the reporters, and I thought, he looks like Richard Nixon.” [The Wall Street Journal, 9/12/12]

NY Times: Romney's Response To Deadly Attacks Was “An Extraordinary Lack Of Presidential Character.” A New York Times editorial was critical of Romney for attacking Obama during Romney's response to attacks on U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt:

Mitt Romney, who wants Americans to believe he can be president but showed an extraordinary lack of presidential character by using the murders of the Americans in Libya as an excuse not just to attack Mr. Obama, but to do so in a way that suggested either a dangerous ignorance of the facts or an equally dangerous willingness to twist them to his narrow partisan aims. [The New York Times, 9/12/12]

ABC's Tapper: Evidence For Romney's Claim That Obama “Sympathizes” With Attackers, Wasn't Apparent, Because “It Does Not In Any Way Exist.” Jake Tapper, ABC News' senior White House correspondent, noted that Romney's attacks did not “stand up to simple chronology.” He went on to explain that Romney's suggestion that Obama “sympathized” with the attackers is based on no evidence, “likely because [the evidence] does not in any way exist.” [, 9/12/12]

Wash. Post: “Mr. Romney's Rhetoric On Embassy Attacks Is A Discredit To His Campaign.” A Washington Post editorial explained the multiple fallacies presented by the Romney campaign. The Post condemned Romney's speech as “a series of crude political attacks on President Obama” that are a “discredit to [Romney's] campaign.” [The Washington Post, 9/12/12]

But Fox Defended Romney, Endorsed His Criticism Of Obama Administration

Fox's Stephen Hayes: “On The Substance,” Romney Was Right. On September 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes claimed Romey's “critique was the right critique.” Hayes disagreed with Romney's timing but only because “the media were going to obsess on this.” From Special Report:

HAYES: Well, I think on the substance, Mitt Romney's critique was the right critique. I mean, the president did send mixed signals. The administration from the first tweet from the embassy in Egypt did lead with an apology. Even subsequent statements by Hillary Clinton where she added in denunciation of the violence always led with what was tantamount to an apology. So I think on the substance, he's got a very good case.

On the timing, would I have done the press conference? I probably wouldn't have, but it has much more to do with the fact that you knew the media were going to obsess on this and obsess on it they did. They are so now fascinated by this process story, using the process story the beat up Mitt Romney rather than taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture question about the policies. You have in effect what we're witnessing is perhaps a partial collapse of the Obama doctrine. The leading from behind manifesto that has governed the way that the administration has conducted foreign policy over the past three-and-a-half years. And all we heard about all day today was the media and whether Mitt Romney should have put out a statement at that time. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 9/12/12]

On Fox, Ann Coulter Said Romney's Statement Was “Devastating To President Obama.” During the September 12 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Ann Coulter claimed that “you know that Romney's statement was devastating to President Obama because the media is screaming bloody murder. If he hadn't struck gold that they wouldn't all be doing this”: 

SEAN HANNITY (host): The liberal media, we'll show this later in the program tonight, what is their answer to this? To attack Governor Romney for doing what our president should have done and to say this is unacceptable. We're not going to allow it. We have a tape where they coordinated their little questions together so they you ask, you follow-up, you ask, you follow-up.

COULTER: No. It's stunning. You know that Romney's statement was devastating to President Obama because the media is screaming bloody murder. If he hadn't struck gold with that, they wouldn't all be doing this. But that's their response to everything Romney says. Oh, can you believe he said that? Yeah, I can. I can't believe what Obama said.

HANNITY: I was actually thankful that we had a leader that actually came out and defended the United States of America and said that there will be consequences if you attack this country.

COULTER: This is the consistent, it is not just with terrorists, this is the consistent division between the parties, which is why you can't allow a Democrat anywhere near national security. It is always to back down in the face of extremism, whether it's Bolshevism or terrorism, it's always to apologize for what you are doing. It doesn't work with Communists and it doesn't work with terrorists.

HANNITY: I love when Krauthammer told them, they should've told them to go straight to hell. [Fox News, Hannity, 9/12/12]

On Fox And Friends, Andrew Napolitano Bolstered Romney By Calling His Remarks “Statesman-Like.” In a conversation on Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy asked Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano what he thought about Romney's comments:

DOOCY: What did you think much what Romney said yesterday?

NAPOLITANO: I have a lot difficulties with some of things Governor Romney has done, I'm furious that he wants to keep part of Obamacare. But what he said yesterday in my view was statesman-like and was far more presidential than what President Obama said. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/12/12]

On Fox, Ann Coulter Claims Romney's Response Was “Perfectly Appropriate.” During the September 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Ann Coulter praised Romney by calling his response to the embassy attacks “perfectly appropriate” and attacked the media for being shocked by Romney's comments. Coulter claimed that “there is nothing shocking” about what Romney said:

COULTER: Right. Right. And look at the substance of the question. The President of the United States has just done something incredibly, stupidly naive, harmful to United States foreign policy interests, manifestly it led to our ambassador being killed by ginning up angry Muslims protesting outside the, first the Cairo embassy. And what do they switch it to? The criticism of the angel Obama. And this is what it's going to be like until Election Day. I mean, I've noticed that not even on something as important as this, but the media's technique now is to play a perfectly appropriate answer from Mitt Romney and then to come back to them, the host, and say, and act like they're shocked, shocked. But there is nothing shocking in what was just said.

GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): But to me, it's two pronged. The idea they would coordinate together is news to me. I mean, I just never knew that this -- I just can't imagine any esteemed journalist agreeing to do that. But number two, once you agree on the singular question, if that's the way the game is played, then don't go to question number 2 after you ask that question? 'Cause they didn't. They asked the same question six times.

COULTER: Right, right. And it's the same way in the reverse with Obama. It will be the same question about how hard is it dealing with these Republicans? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/13/12]

Shaffer On Fox: “I Do Agree With Governor Romney.” On the September 13 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked retired Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, senior fellow at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, what he would have done in Romney's situation: 

SHAFFER: This is why yesterday was so important regarding drawing that line and being clear about it. I do agree with Governor Romney.  President Obama, his embassy saying we're apologizing for these Americans who put something offensive on the internet was the wrong signal to send. It should have been 'hey, we admire, we enjoy freedom of speech and we defend our equities, period.' Instead you now - this Yemen thing I believe is a direct result of the milquetoast response of the president over the last 24 hours. Even his statement later in the day yesterday wasn't sufficient to say we really are serious about defending what we want to defend. [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 9/13/12]

Media Matters research interns Alessandra DiMonda, Brian Rabitz and Brendan Karet contributed to this report.