02:59 - Source: CNN
Obama, Romney get heated over Libya

Story highlights

CNN's Candy Crowley was moderator of the second presidential debate Tuesday

Conservative critics attacked Crowley for correcting Mitt Romney's claim that President Barack Obama did not refer to the Benghazi attack as an "act of terror"

A review of the transcripts show that Crowley was, in fact, right

CNN  — 

Conservative critics have launched an attack on CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, who moderated Tuesday’s second presidential debate, after she corrected former Gov. Mitt Romney’s claim that President Barack Obama did not refer to the consulate attack in Benghazi as an “act of terror.”

CNN Fact Check: A day after Libya attack, Obama described it as ‘acts of terror’

Obama said in the debate that on September 12, he called the attack in Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, an “act of terror.” Romney, however, disputed the claim, and said the president had not called it an “act of terror” for 14 days. Crowley correctly stated that Obama had used the term “act of terror” during remarks at The White House the day after the attack. Romney was mistaken.

In an editorial on Wednesday titled “Candy’s not dandy,” The New York Post – owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., parent company of Fox News Channel – repeated accusations against Crowley first leveled by Romney surrogate John Sununu on CNN’s Early Start on Wednesday morning.

“The president was caught lying last night, and I think the world should know that,” Sununu told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. Sununu contended that Obama’s comments were in reference to “the original 9/11 event” and not the Libya attack.

However, the transcripts of the debate and also the president’s Rose Garden address, as well as subsequent comments, show that, in fact, Crowley was correct.

Here was the entire exchange from the transcript of the debate:

CROWLEY: Because we’re – we’re closing in, I want to still get a lot of people in. I want to ask you something, Mr. President, and then have the governor just quickly.

Your secretary of state, as I’m sure you know, has said that she takes full responsibility for the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Does the buck stop with your secretary of state as far as what went on here?

OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president and I’m always responsible, and that’s why nobody’s more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I do.

The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened. That this was an act of terror and I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime.

And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.

And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president, that’s not what I do as commander in chief.

CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to…

ROMNEY: Yes, I – I…

CROWLEY: … quickly to this please.

ROMNEY: I – I think interesting the president just said something which – which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That’s what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It – it – it – he did in fact, sir. So let me – let me call it an act of terror…

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He – he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take – it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

ROMNEY: This – the administration – the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.

CROWLEY: It did.

ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And to suggest – am I incorrect in that regard, on Sunday, the – your secretary –

OBAMA: Candy?

ROMNEY: Excuse me. The ambassador of the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and spoke about how –

OBAMA: Candy, I’m –

ROMNEY: – this was a spontaneous –

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me –

OBAMA: I’m happy to have a longer conversation –

CROWLEY: I know you –

OBAMA: – about foreign policy.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. But I want to – I want to move you on and also –

OBAMA: OK. I’m happy to do that, too.

CROWLEY: – the transcripts and –

OBAMA: I just want to make sure that –

CROWLEY: – figure out what we –

OBAMA: – all of these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some of their questions answered…

And here is the transcript from Obama’s Rose Garden remarks on September 12, the day after the attack:

“Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe,” he said. “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. 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.”

Obama repeated the “acts of terror” line during a campaign event in Las Vegas on September 13:

“No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America.”

Timeline: What the Obama administration has said about the Libya attack

In the debate, Crowley, who is anchor of CNN’s “State of the Union with Candy Crowley,” also said that Romney was correct to say that it took the administration some time to say conclusively and with one voice that the attack was not the spontaneous outgrowth of a protest against an anti-Islam film.

CROWLEY: He – he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take – it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

On September 16, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said, “We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.”

On September 19, Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that the ambassador and three other Americans “were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy.”

But, as to the original accusation from the conservative critics that Obama never mentioned “acts of terror” until weeks after the attack, they were wrong. Crowley was right.

Complete coverage of CNN’s Fact Checks

CNN wire staff contributed to this report.