Eighth in a series of endless, tireless, exhaustive, hairsplitting, obsessive, resounding, never-before-attempted, late-night posts and conclusive posts on the fact-checking industry.
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has sustained criticism from fact-checkers in the past for alleging that the Obama administration apologizes for the United States.
In an extensive post from February 2011, Washington Post checker Glenn Kessler, for instance, included a Romney attack among commonly trafficked GOP claims that President Obama had taken an apology tour. Four Pinocchios were awarded. PolitiFact gave a “False” to a Romney statement that the president “has apologized for what he deems to be American arrogance, dismissiveness, and derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally ... .”
Now Egypt and Libya. After the deplorable attacks of yesterday, Romney this morning appeared at a podium and came back to the apology theme. According to a transcript of the proceedings, Romney repeated the attack multiple times, saying that it’s a “a terrible course to — for America to — to stand in apology for our values,” that “an apology for America’s values is never the right course,” that “the statement that came from the administration was a statement which is akin to apology and I think was a severe miscalculation,” that it was “a disgraceful statement on the part of our administration to apologize for American values,” that “having that embassy reiterate a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech is not the right course for an administration,” that we need to recognize “that the principles America is based upon is not something we shrink from or apologize for.”
So just what is Romney referring to here? It’s a statement that the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued before protesters attacked the compound. It was issued in response to outrage in Egypt over a movie by an Israeli filmmaker living in California. According to the Associated Press, the film depicts the prophet “Muhammad as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse, among other overtly insulting claims that have caused outrage.” Accordingly:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
The White House has distanced itself from that statement. Yet the question remains: Is it an apology? Given that the word “apology” has a dictionary definition — “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure” — it falls squarely within the ambit of our ever-expanding world of journo-fact-checkers.
Does shouting down the abuse of the First Amendment amount to apologizing for American values? Is a condemnation an implicit apology? We’ll leave those questions to the checkers, with full confidence that whatever they find, well, it won’t matter too much.
Fourth: Clinton bedevils fact-checkers.
Seventh: Biden and Obama keep checkers busy.