In a defining exchange of the second presidential debate Wednesday night, Mitt Romney repeated a false claim about President Obama’s reaction to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya — and got called out by the moderator.
“The [P]resident just said something which is on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said this was an act of terror. You said in the Rose Garden, the day after the attack, it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration. Is that what you’re saying? Want to get that for the record, because it took the President 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”
In fact, on the morning after the attack, Obama addressed the nation from the Rose Garden and said, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.”
Both Obama and debate moderator Candy Crowley brought this to Romney’s attention.
“He did in fact, sir, call it an act of terror,” Crowley said.
“Can you say that a little louder, Candy?” Obama joked.
“He did call it an act of terror,” Crowley repeated.
Some of Obama’s critics have flat out denied that Obama referred to the Benghazi attack as an act of terrorism the morning after it occurred. Others have suggested Obama may have been referring to the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and D.C.
But two days later, Obama repeated his statements less ambiguously.
“So what I want all of you to know is that we are going to bring those who killed our fellow Americans to justice,” he said on September 13. “I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America.”
Romney’s claim, echoed by scores of conservatives and GOP critics, that Obama waited two weeks to call the attack an act of terrorism is incorrect.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.