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Published in Stream:
9/11 Attack on Libyan Embassy
Press by
Personal account of James Miller, Managing Editor of The Interpreter, a publication on Russia, Ukraine, and Syria. A contributor at Reuters, The Daily Beast, RFE/RL, elsewhere.
The Timeline
9 years
18 Months - Iraq vs. Libya - No Comparison.

Here's what happened on September 11, 2012.

Protests began to grow throughout the day in Cairo, Egypt, over videos, published by independent individuals, that depicted the Prophet Muhammed in a negative light.

Before the peak of those protests, the US embassy in Cairo issued a statement that was designed to be, well, diplomatic. The statement said that the embassy, "condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions...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."

This statement was made when there were no protests in Libya, and the protests in Cairo were expected but would not start for nearly another 4 hours. This statement was made by the Embassy itself, and was not approved by the State Department.

Soon, however, protests swelled. Egyptian police, responsible for controlling crowds outside of the embassy, were overwhelmed, and many hours later, at 6:30 PM, some protesters climbed the walls, removed the US flag and burned it, and raised an Islamist flag. The protests were initially organized by Coptic Christians, working with Islamist groups, who were trying to distance themselves between their own beliefs and the videos, allegedly made by people affiliated with Coptic groups in the US.

No one was injured, none of the protesters had visible weapons, and the protesters eventually left. 

Hours later, protests grew outside the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and then a terrorist attack killed 4 US embassy staff, including US Ambassador Stevens.

At some point after this, the US State Department disavowed the earlier statements made by the Cairo Embassy, and issued its own statements condemning the attacks on the embassies.

It is at this point that Romney, and other members of the GOP, launch their political attacks. At 10:09 PM (EST), Romney released this statement to the press:

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.

This statement came with an instruction to not release it to the public until after 9/11 was over. Exactly 15 minutes later, a second email says that the statement can be released immediately. Just after midnight, Reince Preibus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, sends this Tweet.

Both Romney's statements, and Priebus's, insinuate that the original Cairo statement was made after attacks on embassies were committed. As a point of order, the statement made by the Cairo embassy could neither "condemn attacks" nor "sympathize with the attackers in Egypt" as no attacks had been made.

Read the follow up to this article that analyzes Mitt Romney's statements further, as well as the media's response to the claims made by prominent members of the GOP - 

EA Special: Mitt Romney's "Deviant" Politics, a Slain Ambassador, and the Death of American Objectivity