Mitt Romney continued to be hammered in the media on Wednesday night and Thursday morning over his response to the attacks in Egypt and Libya — though some conservatives began coming to his defense.
Romney endured a day of terrible press after he criticized the Obama administration's response to protests in Cairo and Benghazi, as well as the killing of the American ambassador to Libya. Though the attack that killed Christopher Stevens may have been planned — and though seemingly everything about the supposed film that sparked the protests has now been called into question — both reliable conventional-wisdom-peddlers and even some right-wing analysts said that Romney had made a serious mistake by distorting the timeline of the Egyptian embassy's response to the protests, and by making such a harsh political attack on the White House.
As Wednesday wore on, pundits continued reacting with astonishment at Romney's response. Speaking to Rachel Maddow, NBC's Andrea Mitchell said that "It was one of those moments where the character and the policy were both revealed." She speculated that Romney may have been looking to satisfy some of the conservative commentators who have been openly attacking his campaign strategy.
"I think they were looking for an opportunity," she said. "...This is a serious business. This is not the stuff of combative political press releases. I can't recall, Rachel, and I don't think you can, another time when the United States was under fire, literally, where a presidential candidate in either party put out a press release.
Peggy Noonan, who made waves with her criticism of Romney on Fox News, had an even more withering assessment for her own Wall Street Journal.
"Romney looked weak today," she said. "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.'"
On Thursday morning, Joe Scarborough said he had been "absolutely flabbergasted" by Romney's response.
Even Bill O'Reilly called Romney out, though very briefly. Playing footage of Romney criticizing the Egyptian embassy for issuing a statement that was "akin to apology."
"I'm not sure the Governor is correct on that," O'Reilly said. "The embassy was trying to head off the violence. Being conciliatory in that kind of a situation seems logical."
Newspaper editorial boards across the country blasted Romney's response as well. The Washington Post called it "a discredit to his campaign" and the Los Angeles Times said it was an "outrageous exercise in opportunism." The Boston Globe labeled it "offensive on many other levels" beyond the timing of his remarks.
The fact-checking brigades also had their knives out for Romney. The Associated Press, for instance, said he had "seriously mischaracterized what had happened in a statement accusing President Barack Obama of "disgraceful" handling of violence there and at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo."
Romney had his defenders, though. Ann Coulter told Sean Hannity that the media was "screaming bloody murder" because Romney's statement had been "devastating" to Obama.
"If he hadn't struck gold with that, they wouldn't all be doing this," she said. "But that's their response to everything Romney says. 'Oh, can you believe he said that?' Yeah, actually, I can. I can’t believe what Obama said."
The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes also criticized the media on Fox News.
"What we’re witnessing is perhaps a partial collapse of the Obama doctrine, the 'leading from behind' manifesto that has governed the way the administration conducted foreign policy over the past three-and-a-half years," he said. "And all we heard about all day today was the media and whether Mitt Romney should have put out a statement at that time."
The Wall Street Journal editorial page said that Romney's error was not much of one at all: "His political faux pas was to offend a pundit class that wants to cede the foreign policy debate to Mr. Obama without thinking seriously about the trouble for America that is building in the world."
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