(ASHEVILLE, N.C.) — Mitt Romney offered his harshest attack to date on the Obama administration’s handling of last month’s terrorist attack in Libya that killed four Americans, accusing the president of failing to “grasp the seriousness” of the incident.
Romney drew on comments made earlier Thursday by Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter on CNN, in which she accused Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan of making the situation in Libya a “political circus” and blaming him and Ryan for it becoming “the political topic it is” to make his point.
“His campaign said this today about the Benghazi terrorist attack,” Romney began at a rally in Asheville, N.C., Thursday evening. “They said, and I quote, ‘The entire reason this has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.’”
“No, President Obama, it’s an issue because this is the first time in 33 years that a United States ambassador has been assassinated,” said Romney.
“Mr. President, this is an issue because we were attacked successfully by terrorists on the anniversary of 9/11,” he said. “President Obama, this is an issue because Americans wonder why it was it took so long for you to admit that this was a terrorist attack.”
The White House determined the attacks on the U.S. Consulate were a terrorist attack nine days after the incident.
“This is very — this is a very serious issue,” Romney continued. “These are very serious questions, and the American people deserve serious answers and I hope they come soon.”
During the CNN appearance, Cutter went on to talk about the incident as a whole, as well as the administration’s response to what they knew at the time.
“You know, the administration has been open and honest from day one about the Benghazi attack, and as more information has become available, they’ve made that information available to the American people and to members of Congress,” Cutter said. “But, you know, when a crisis occurs, when an attack occurs, that information is gathered and, you know, over time it becomes more clear what happened, and I think that’s the case here.”
In a written statement following Romney’s remarks in North Carolina Thursday evening, Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith accused Romney of trying to score “cheap political points.”
“From the time of the attack in Libya, Mitt Romney has stopped at nothing to politicize these events — and he wasted no time in proving that point in North Carolina today,” wrote Smith, referring to the criticism that fell upon Romney when he accused the Obama administration of “sympathizing” with the attackers before all the details of the incident were known.
“President Obama has been focused on getting the facts, finding the terrorists responsible, and bringing them to justice, Mitt Romney has attempted to use the tragedy to his political advantage,” Smith wrote. “Every time Mitt Romney has tried to prove he’s ready to be commander-in-chief, he has failed miserably — embarrassing himself and alienating our closest ally during his foreign trip, calling Russia our top foe without presenting any plan to deal with al-Qaeda, and rushing to launch a political attack against the president on the Libya tragedy before he knew all the facts. The American people deserve better from someone auditioning to be commander-in-chief.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN