HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — After a question during Tuesday night’s town hall about the level of security at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the deaths of four Americans, Mitt Romney said President Obama failed to call the assault a terrorist attack until much later.
But Mr. Obama said he stood in the Rose Garden on Sept. 11 — the day of the attack — and labeled it terror.
Mr. Romney seemed taken aback.
“I think it’s interesting, the president said something which is, on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden — and said this was an act of terror?” Mr. Romney said incredulously, questioning Mr. Obama.
“That’s what I said,” Mr. Obama responded.
“You said it was an act of terror, it was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?” Mr. Romney countered.
CNN’s Candy Crowley, who moderated the Tuesday evening matchup, spoke up for Mr. Obama and noted that he had indeed called it a terrorism attack.
“He did, in fact, sir. He did call it an act of terror. 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.”
In that brief Sept. 11 speech, Mr. Obama mourned the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and seemed to credit an anti-Islam video for sparking the violence in Benghazi and at the American embassy in Cairo. But he did, also, use the word terror.
“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,” he said that day. “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.”
Mr. Romney in Tuesday’s debate stuck by his contention that the administration was slow to recognize the root of the attack, and pointed to Mr. Obama’s ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, who went on the Sunday political talk shows after Mr. Obama’s speech and blamed the video, specifically discounting terrorism.
Ms. Crowley, acting as instant fact-checker, also rated that statement true.
“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 are correct about that,” she said.