(WASHINGTON) — Mitt Romney said today that President Obama’s response to the attacks on American facilities in Libya and Egypt was “disgraceful” and denounced what he called the administration’s “apology for America’s values.”
Romney’s criticism prompted the Obama presidential campaign to say they were “shocked” the Republican would use the death of American diplomat to launch a political attack.
Others suggested that Romney got his information confused.
Romney’s initial comment was triggered by a statement issued early Tuesday by the U.S. embassy in Cairo, condemning a movie that depicts the Prophet Muhammed, Islam’s founder, in a derogatory way and has inflamed Muslims in several countries.
“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims, as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions,” the consulate said in its message, which was posted on Twitter.
In the hours after it was issued, Egyptian protesters scaled the wall of the U.S. embassy and tore down the American flag, ripping it to pieces.
At that point the embassy’s original message was deleted and replaced with a new Tweet, which read: “This morning’s condemnation still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the embassy.”
Hours later, militants carried out a lethal attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
About 10 p.m. Tuesday night, Romney issued a statement criticizing the Egyptian embassy’s initial statement, saying it was an Obama administration “apology” to extremists.
The Obama campaign pounced on the timing of Romney’s statement, which broke an arbitrarily held 9/11 detente between the candidates.
“We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack,” Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement.
Romney was undeterred. He held a news conference in Jacksonville, Fla., today to escalate his criticism.
He said it was “disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
When told the embassy statement was issued before the Cairo or Benghazi attacks took place, Romney said that the embassy reiterated the remark after the walls of the Egyptian embassy had been breached.
He rejected the suggestion during the news conference that the had “jumped the gun,” saying, “I don’t think we ever hesitate when we see something in violation of our principles.”
Romney also insisted that the Obama administration, which had distanced itself from the embassy’s comment, had to take responsibility.
“Their administration spoke,” he told reporters. “The president takes responsibility not just for the words that come from his mouth but also the words that come from his ambassadors, from his administration, from his embassies, from his state department. They clearly sent mixed messages to the world and the statement… is akin to an apology.”
President Obama, speaking in the Rose Garden after Romney finished his press conference in Florida, made no mention of his rival.
Appearing alongside Clinton, he said “there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence, none,” and vowed to “bring justice to the killers.”
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