The debate over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s bungled attack against President Barack Obama hinges on the timeline of the attacks in Egypt and Libya. What follows is a list of the key events, ordered chronologically:
1. Tuesday, around noon EDT. As protesters gather in Cairo in response to an offensive YouTube trailer depicting the Prophet Mohammed, the US embassy issues a statement condemning the video, presumably hoping to quell the protests:
“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
At nighttime, protesters breach the compound walls and take down the United States flag with a black flag bearing the words “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.”
Tuesday, 7:51 p.m (EST). Reuters reports that “An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound.”
2. Tuesday, 10:09 pm. Romney campaign releases a statement embargoed for release after midnight, when the armistice of campaigning on 9/11 expires:
“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.”
It is important to note that the US embassy issued its statements hours before the attack in Libya occurred.
Tuesday, 10:10 pm (EST). The Obama administration disavows the apology by the US embassy in Cairo, as reported by Politico.
10:44 p.m (EST): Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi:
“I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.”
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”
Wednesday, 12:01 pm. The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, sends out a tweet blasting Obama:
“Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”
12:09 a.m. Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt responds to Romney’s comments via e-mail: “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.”
Tuesday, 6:06 am. A breaking news tweet from AP reports on the death of the US ambassador – J. Christopher Stevens – and three others in Benghazi, Libya.
7:21 a.m.: President Obama condemns the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi:
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.
I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.
On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.
The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.
Romney campaign refuses to back down from its critique, the Atlantic reports.
“This was a story that was building the entire day,” a senior Romney official said of the developments that took place late on Tuesday and into Wednesday morning. “With the killing of a U.S. diplomat it is the type of thing where the Republican nominee for president has to have a response. This was a big deal. And the statement was about the consistent failure of this administration to engage constructively with the aftermath of the Arab Spring.”