Three years before masked gunmen stormed a hotel in the capital of Mali, killing at least 27 people early Friday morning, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was mocked by certain media figures for warning about the spread of terrorist activity in the small West African country.
During the final 2012 presidential debate, which focused on foreign policy, Romney cautioned that instability in the Middle East had given way to the rise of terrorist influences in several key countries, including Libya, Syria and Mali.
“Mali has been taken over, the northern part of Mali by al Qaeda type individuals,” Romney said. “With Mali now having North Mali taken over by al-Qaeda, with Syria having [Bashar al-Assad] continuing to kill, to murder his own people, this is a region in tumult.”
Prior to the third and final presidential debate, Romney had received intelligence briefings from the Obama administration. It’s tradition for presidential candidates to receive these types of briefings following their nominating conventions. A former Romney adviser later confirmed to BuzzFeed that Romney had indeed been given intelligence on possible terrorist activity in Mali.
But for some in media, the longstanding tradition of administrations trading information with presidential candidates apparently didn’t matter, and Romney’s effort to tie Mali the rise of terror groups to the Middle East became a punchline.
“I bet Romney couldn’t point to Mali on a map,” Daily Kos founderMarkos Moulitsas said at the time on social media.
Longtime Clinton ally and CNN contributor Paul Begala added elsewhere, “POTUS has mentioned Israel at least three times Romney has cited Mali twice. Really.”
Vox.com’s Matt Yglesias joked in a note of his own, “Romney going for the vote of single-issue Mali voters. Obama for people who don’t like Osama bin Laden.”
He added later, “Teachers unions have thrown Northern Mali into chaos.”
“And there is another problem with foreign policy, which Romney demonstrated when he twice mentioned Mali,” Simon wrote. “Mali? Is Romney not aware that in an oft-quoted Roper poll sponsored by the National Geographic Society in 2006, 75 percent of American young people couldn’t find Israel on a map — which might be understandable considering it’s pretty small — but also that 50 percent couldn’t find Ohio? Or New York?”
“And he wants people to know from Mali?” he asked again.
Gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in the Mali capital of Bamako early Friday morning in an assault that left more than two dozen innocent people dead. One witness claimed the gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” just before opening fire on the hotel’s patrons.