Romney’s claim that Obama apologizes for U.S. is based on distortions

December 10, 2011

“He went around the world and apologized for America.”

— Mitt Romney, Sept. 22

Romney likes to say that President Obama apologized overseas for the United States. He even titled his campaign book “No Apology.”

Even more, Romney suggests, Obama does not believe in American strength and greatness. The assertion feeds into a subterranean narrative that Obama, with his exotic, mixed-race background, is not really American in the first place.

The claim that Obama apologizes for the nation began to take shape shortly after he became president. It had been bubbling in the conservative blogs before Karl Rove, who was George W. Bush’s political adviser, had an article titled “The President’s Apology Tour” published in the Wall Street Journal on April 23, 2009, just three months after Obama took the oath of office.

By June, the conservative Heritage Foundation began running a list: “Barack Obama’s Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated a Superpower.”

Most of the criticism stems from a series of speeches Obama made shortly after entering the White House, when he was trying to introduce himself to the world and also signify a distancing from the Bush administration through new policies, such as pledging to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This is typical of many new presidents. Bush, for instance, quickly broke with Clinton administration policy on dealings with North Korea, the Kyoto climate change treaty and the international criminal court, to name a few.

In a lengthy article on the Fact Checker blog, we tracked down every statement Obama uttered that partisans claim was an apology, and concluded that each one had been misquoted or taken out of context.

Romney often cites a statement Obama made in April 2009 as evidence that he does not believe in American exceptionalism.

Asked by a British reporter whether he thought the United States was uniquely qualified to lead the world, Obama answered: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” As Romney put it in his book, this “is another way of saying he doesn’t believe it all.”

But Obama was just getting warmed up. His next sentence was: “I’m enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world.” He continued: “If you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.”

Take it from us: The apology tour never happened.

The Fact Checker awards four Pinocchios for this statement.

Glenn Kessler has reported on domestic and foreign policy for more than three decades. He would like your help in keeping an eye on public figures. Send him statements to fact check by emailing him, tweeting at him, or sending him a message on Facebook.
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