Mitt Romney accused President Obama of failing to level with the American people by refusing to label the Sept. 11 attack that killed the U.S. ambassador in Libya as an act of terrorism.
“I think they want to do their very best to keep the people of America from understanding what happened,” Romney said Tuesday in an interview with Fox News in Ohio. “We expect candor. We expect transparency, particularly as it relates to terrorism.”
Some White House officials, including Press Secretary Jay Carney, have described the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi as an act of terrorism, but Obama has said only that it was something more than a “mob action.” The administration has said that some of those who killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans “may have had connections” to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an offshoot of the terrorist network that is active in eastern Libya.
The attack was initially described as an apparently spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam film made in the United States, but administration officials have been backing away from that view in recent days as more is learned.
In his interview on an airport tarmac, Romney said: “It’s clear that it was a terrorist act. If Al Qaeda assassinates American diplomats, why, that’s an act of terror, and that’s what this was and that’s what’s been explained by other members of the administration.
“The White House doesn’t want to admit it, but that’s what happened, and it’s a very troubling and disturbing development. It indicates that matters in the Middle East are not the calm, placid setting that people might have expected. What’s going on is not just a reaction to a film. This is a continuing confrontation that we have with forces in the Middle East that are radical, violent Islamists, and this is something that’s continuing.”
He added that “in the early days, they didn’t know exactly what had happened, but as soon as they’ve learned -- as the Intelligence Committee has now indicated -- that this was a terrorist attack, they should have acknowledged that as opposed to continuing to pretend that this was something other than that.”
The Fox interview was one of two on national television that Romney conducted Tuesday as he campaigned in Ohio with his running mate, Rep. Paul D. Ryan.
In the other interview, with CNN, Romney defended his widely discredited attacks on Obama’s welfare policies, insisting that he is accurate in saying that the administration had scrapped work requirements for welfare. The administration says it merely gave states flexibility to tinker with the welfare system so long as they increased the amount of work that recipients were required to do.
“No, no. You always have the capacity to add work,” Romney insisted when challenged on that point. “There’s never been a requirement that you can’t have more work. The requirement that they’re waiving is saying that people don’t have to have work to get welfare. That’s the change that they proposed. I disagreed with that direction.”
He went on to say that the administration had done the same thing with food stamp requirements.
“I disagree with the direction on the work requirement as it related to food stamps,” he said. “Look, taking work requirements out of government assistance is, in my opinion, a very bad course to take and creates a culture of dependency. We help people who need help; we want to help people who need help. But the idea of removing work requirements is, I think, a mistake.”
The administration and Congress did relax work requirements for food stamps in 2009 as part of the federal stimulus program. The administration’s insistence that Romney is wrong about the welfare work requirements has been backed up by multiple independent fact checkers.
Romney was also asked about comments made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is, like Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Reid was quoted Tuesday as saying that Romney is “not the face of Mormonism.”
Romney refused to strike back, saying: “I really don’t have any response to Harry. He can say whatever he wants to say. This isn’t a race about Harry.”
In both interviews, Romney was asked about the temporary NFL referees who are being blamed for a blown call in Monday night’s game, costing the Green Bay Packers a victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
“I’d sure like to see some experienced referees with NFL experience come back out onto the NFL playing fields,” he told CNN, laughing somewhat nervously.
The Fox interview included Ryan, a Wisconsin native and devout Green Bay fan, who was considerably more forthright.
“That was an interception, not a touchdown!” he said, referring to the play that was ruled a Seahawks touchdown. “We need to get rid of those temporary refs, just like we need to get rid of the Obama administration.”
Romney broke in: “This guy knows how to pivot, you know that? We went from refs to replacing President Obama.”