On Wednesday on CNN’s “Newsroom,” anchor Don Lemon went head-to-head with Richard Williamson, a foreign policy adviser to Republican presidential nominee former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA). Lemon set about trying to address Romney’s response to the riots and killings of U.S. personnel in Egypt and Libya with Williamson, a discussion that quickly turned heated as Lemon questioned the timing of Romney’s statements.
“When this country was in the midst of a diplomatic crisis overseas, our people were in harm’s way, is this the time for a candidate for the presidency to speak out in a way that’s critical of the government? It couldn’t wait?” he asked.
“Well, let me make a few comments to your presentation,” said Williamson, deflecting Lemon’s question by attempting to offer an alternative version of the official timeline of events.
Early in the conflict on Tuesday, as rioters were amassing outside embassy gates in the Middle East, the Egyptian embassy issued what it hoped would be a mollifying statement decrying attacks on people of faith in the Muslim world, a statement that the Romney campaign has attributed to the Obama administration and called an “apology for our values.”
Williamson argued that U.S. embassy personnel had released the statement after the walls of the embassy had been breached. Then he asserted that it was only at the prompting of the Romney campaign that the White House issued its own statement about the attacks.
Lemon asked if such lengthy dissemination is necessary when U.S. personnel have lost their lives and the government should be presenting a unified front. Then, he tried to turn back to his original question, “Thank you for everything you just said, but my initial question was, it couldn’t wait?”
“Well,” said Williamson, “let me reiterate, the timeline you suggest is not the same as what I just went through.”
“I’m not asking about the timeline, it couldn’t wait until all the information was out — hang on, let me finish,” he said as Williamson talked over him.
When Lemon asked the question again, Williamson chucked and rolled his eyes before saying, “That’s a silly question.”
“It’s not a silly question,” Lemon countered, as Williamson made a show of hiding his face in his hand, shaking his head.
“I came here to talk about the failed policies in the Middle East, which is what the American people are interested in,” he said, “the failed policies of leading from behind, and what you want to do is play a ‘process-getcha’ question. I don’t want to play your game.”
Finally Williamson said, “The governor made the statement. It was fine, it was acceptable, it was right. Did you just hear me? It was fine, it was acceptable and it was right.”
“I heard you,” said Lemon briskly, “but that’s not what I asked you. But we’ll move on now.”
After some back and forth, Lemon circled back to his original question, asking whether or not Romney’s handling of the issue has the appearance of opportunism, and of exploiting the deaths of foreign officers for political advantage.
“What’s best in the situation is to stand up for our values,” said Williamson, doggedly, “and being willing to lead from the front.”
Watch the clip, embedded via Mediaite, below: