Romney to Obama: Serious questions about terrorist strike in Libya

Charles Dharapak/AP
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Mitt Romney challenged President Obama on Thursday to explain why it took so long for the administration to conclude that the attack in Libya that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, was a terrorist attack successfully carried out on the anniversary of September 11th.

Romney raised the issue after Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter said in an interview on CNN that the “entire reason” the attack in Benghazi has become a “political topic…is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.”

Romney seized on Cutter’s comment at a rally here, scoffing at the notion that his campaign was responsible for making an issue out of the events in Libya.

“No, President Obama, it’s an issue because this is the first time in 33 years that a United States ambassador has been assassinated,” Romney said as a crowd of over 8,000 shouted their agreement. “Mr. President, this is an issue because we were attacked successfully by terrorists on the anniversary of 9/11. President Obama, this is an issue because Americans wonder why it was it took so long for you and your administration to admit that this was a terrorist attack.”

The Obama administration has come under fire for its shifting accounts of the events that occurred at American diplomatic compounds on September 11th, when four Americans were killed, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.  Administration officials initially signaled that the attacks were triggered by protests against an anti-Muslim film, although reporting later showed that U.S. intelligence agencies internally concluded within a day that the incident was a planned terror attack

Cutter’s comment about the political nature of the attacks on Obama over the Libyan incident came as she argued that the administration has passed along the best intelligence as it comes in. She was later pushed on these facts in an interview with Fox News host Brett Baier, who pointed out that the president himself tied the attacks to the video in an appearance on CBS’ David Letterman show six days after the  assault on the compounds.

“It was an intelligence conclusion,” Cutter responded before becoming testy.  “What are you suggesting? Are you suggesting that we are playing politics with this?”

“I am not suggesting anything,” Baier responded. “The entire reason this has become a political topic, four people are dead.”

Cutter agreed and insisted that the Obama administration “has treated this entire tragedy with the utmost seriousness to get to the bottom of the attacks, hold the perpetrators accountable, and make sure that it never happens again.”

In Asheville, Romney agreed that the issue is not a political one. “These are very serious questions,” he said.  “And the American people deserve serious answers and I hope they come soon.”

The Obama campaign harked back to Romney’s initial response to violence in Egypt and Libya -- a statement late on the night of Sept. 11 that was widely viewed in both parties as premature, inaccurate and inappropriate. “From the time of the attack in Libya, Mitt Romney has stopped at nothing to politicize these events – and he wasted no time in proving that point in North Carolina today,” Obama for America spokeswoman Lis Smith said Thursday in a statement.  ‘While President Obama has been focused on getting the facts, finding the terrorists responsible, and bringing them to justice, Mitt Romney has attempted to use the tragedy to his political advantage.”
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.