CNN Fact Check: Obama went on an apology tour, Romney and others say

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Story highlights

  • Obama did mention past U.S. flaws in speeches. But never offered an apology
  • In one speech, Obama said, "there have been times where America has shown arrogance"
  • Obama says the claim is "the biggest whopper."

The contention that President Obama apologized to other nations for American behavior has been mentioned repeatedly by his critics, including Mitt Romney.

During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in August, Romney said, "I will begin my presidency with the jobs tour. President Obama began his with an apology tour. America, he said, had dictated to other nations. No, Mr. President America has freed other nations from dictators."

At last week's debate that "President Obama's policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour."

Romney made the claim again during the Monday night debate.

"The president began what I have called an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America."

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Romney also said the "reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And by the way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region, but you went to the other nations."

    Romney said "in those nations, and on Arabic TV, you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations."

    Obama said the apologizing claim "has been probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign."

    The facts:

    When President Obama began his term, he made a number of speeches in the Middle East and elsewhere -- all designed to forge better ties with Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.

    Critics such as Romney have said Obama apologized for past actions in such addresses.

    Obama did indeed mention past U.S. flaws in speeches. But in those addresses, Obama never uttered an apology for the United States.

    Those statements were snippets, part of larger and grander narratives about repairing ties, building friendship and working together.

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    During an address in Strasbourg, France, in April 2009, Obama did utter words Romney referenced in the debate.

    In that speech, Obama said, "there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive."

    But in the very next sentence, Obama called out the Europeans for an "anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what's bad."

    He then goes on to talk about forging "common solutions to our common problems."

    "America cannot confront the challenges of this century alone, but that Europe cannot confront them without America. So I've come to Europe this week to renew our partnership, one in which America listens and learns from our friends and allies, but where our friends and allies bear their share of the burden. Together, we must forge common solutions to our common problems."

    An April 2009 speech before the Turkish parliament praised both the United States and Turkey. It focused on common bonds and threats, such as extremism, the economy, and energy issues.

    During that speech, he said "another issue that confronts all democracies as they move to the future is how we deal with the past" and touches on a major blemish on U.S. history.

    "The United States is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history," Obama said. "Our country still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans."

    After that statement, Obama segued into a similar stain on Turkey's history -- the massacre of Armenians during World War I, and how both Turks and Armenians should work toward a "new day."

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    In June 2009, Obama delivered a major speech in Egypt where he discussed "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

    Citing the"fear and anger" after 9/11, Obama said that in some cases, "it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals."

    While defending America's reaction to the 9/11 attacks, Obama resolved to fight extremism, support Israel, and back the establishment of a Palestinian state..

    Back in December, Michael Cohen, a columnist for Foreign Policy's Election 2012 Channel, called the "apology tour" claim "a lie that has been reiterated so often that it has become conventional wisdom on the right. "

    "The apology canard has been disproven practically as often as it has been made."

    As for Israel, it is true that the president hasn't visited the country since his election.

    But Obama did visit the Jewish state during his 2008 campaign. He went to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and the southern Israeli town of Sderot, the city battered by missiles from Hamas-controlled Gaza.

    "If we're going to talk about trips that we've taken -- when I was a candidate for office, first trip I took was to visit our troops," Obama said. He had visited Iraq and Afghanistan as a candidate.

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    Conclusion:

    Romney's claim is false. The president has mentioned past U.S. mistakes and flaws during speeches about the larger issues of building bridges to other countries. But he has never apologized or gone on an "apology tour."

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