WASHINGTON -- Social conservatives on Friday wholeheartedly embraced Mitt Romney’s "no apologies" response to the attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt that took the lives of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The GOP presidential nominee had faced widespread criticism earlier in the week for prematurely politicizing the events and misstating the facts.
But speaking before a riled-up crowd at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., which drew about 2,000 attendees, speakers ranging from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to evangelical activist Gary Bauer castigated President Barack Obama and his administration for bowing to "radical Islamists" at the expense of American security, going so far as to blame the White House for the events that unfolded this week.
The theme was first introduced by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who jokingly moved to add "no apologies" to what he described as the summit's platform during the morning's introduction. He then asked the crowd for a voice vote three times, to which they enthusiastically chanted "aye" on each occasion, mocking Democrats for their convention drama over the inclusion of "God" and "Jerusalem" in their party platform.
Shortly afterward, Bachmann took the stage and launched a caustic attack on the president's foreign policy, using the situation in Egypt and Libya to assert that Obama is "insistent on apologizing for who we are as Americans."
Bauer delivered the most emphatic speech on the issue, defending Romney’s response in no uncertain terms.
"We've been told that even though we are free men and women, that we need to restrain our freedom, that we need to be very worried and careful about the psyche of Muslims around the world, so that we don't irritate anyone," Bauer said.
Bauer said he still remembers 9/11 and the death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was killed by terrorists in Pakistan. "Maybe some media people might want to think about their dead colleague," he said.
"Don't tell me to worry about Muslim sensibilities," Bauer added, a line that was met with a prolonged standing ovation.
The entire gathering offered a stark contrast to the initial reaction to the crisis on Wednesday, when many Republicans were reluctant to engage as Romney came under fire -- including by some conservatives -- for immediately pointing a finger at the Obama administration.
Romney had accused the White House of issuing a public apology for an anti-Islamic video that reportedly sparked the protests. But the statement in question, which came from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo without being cleared by the State Department, was made prior to the start of the demonstrations.
After witnessing the backlash against Romney’s blunder, Republicans have spent the last two days jumping to their candidate's defense and accusing a "liberal-leaning" media of manufacturing a controversy.
"The great thing about America is that everybody's got an opinion and you all get to say what it is," Bauer told The Huffington Post, dismissing any harsh words directed at Romney from conservative ranks as nothing more than constructive criticism.
"I think he's fighting a tough battle under a very difficult set of circumstances where every little flaw or misstep is magnified by the media, while the bumbling mistakes on foreign policy and otherwise being committed by the administration are papered over by that same media," Bauer said.
In his speech, Bauer's aim at the media was far more direct.
"This week, all too many reporters were attacking like attack dogs for one political party," he said, whipping up the crowd. "They were trying to somehow shift the blame for the events in the Middle East onto Mitt Romney -- are you serious?"
Conservative talk radio host Bill Bennett even proudly read aloud Romney's statement about Obama sympathizing with attackers, to applause from the crowd.
"Amidst the deaths was a voice, Mitt Romney, and he did not hesitate," Bennett said. "Whatever timing, wording or parsing one might want to bring up, may want to suggest as an improvement on his remarks, his words had a shock effect."
"They have a shock effect because they were true," Bennett added. "When they were condemned so broadly, so almost universally among the establishment press, it's likely they were true."