Arguably, the most memorable moment of the 2012 presidential campaign centered around conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S compounds in Benghazi which claimed the lives of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and two CIA contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty.
Responding to a question about Libya by a member of the audience, President Obama responded that: “as soon as we found out that the Benghazi consulate was being overrun, I was on the phone with my national security team and I gave them three instructions: number one, beef up our security and procedures, not just in Libya, but at every embassy and consulate in the region. Number two, investigate exactly what happened, regardless of where the facts lead us, to make sure folks are held accountable and it doesn’t happen again. And number three, we are going to find out who did this and we’re going to hunt them down, because one of the things that I’ve said throughout my presidency is when folks mess with Americans, we go after them.”
Addressing Romney’s actions that day, Obama stated: “Now Governor Romney had a very different response. While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release, trying to make political points, and that’s not how a commander in chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue. Certainly not right when it’s happening.” [emphasis added]
Moderator and CNN anchor Candy Crowley followed up, asking the president: “I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly. Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?”
Obama responded: “Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president and I’m always responsible, and that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.”
“The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people in the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened” the president continued, adding: “That this was an act of terror and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime. And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.”
And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the Secretary of State, our U.N. Ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as Commander in Chief. [emphasis added]
Romney followed up stating: “I think it’s interesting, the President just said something which is the day after the attack he went in the Rose Garden and said this was an act of terror,” Romney said. “It was not a spontaneous demonstration. Is that what you’re saying? Want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the President 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”
OBAMA: That’s what I said.
ROMNEY: 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?
OBAMA: Please proceed governor.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
Then it happened: possibly the most memorable moment of the presidential campaign as Crowley interjected with a live fact-check heard ’round the nation.
“He did in fact, sir. He did call it an act of terror,” she said, adding: “It did, as well, take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You’re correct about that.”
The official White House transcript of the president’s Rose Garden remarks confirms that President Obama and Crowley were correct:
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. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done. [emphasis added]
You can watch the exchange below. The best part starts around the 2 minute mark:
You can also watch CNN News “reality-check” Mitt Romney in the clip, below: