Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney called the Obama administration's reaction to the murder of four American diplomats in Libya "disgraceful," and slammed Obama for "sympathizing" with the attackers. U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three of his staff were killed Tuesday at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi by Libyan protesters apparently enraged by clips of a video mocking the prophet Muhammad.
Romney released a statement Tuesday night following the attacks:
I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's 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.
In saying that the administration sympathizes with the attackers rather than condemning them, Romney is referencing a statement put out by the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, which was also attacked by protestors angered by the same video. The statement, saying that the embassy condemns "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims—as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions," was not approved by anyone in Washington before its release, which happened hours before the attacks in Libya.
The Obama administration and others have been quick to respond, accusing Romney of using the situation for political gain. Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt responded:
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.
Romney Wednesday held a press conference where he stood by his original comments, saying that although the statement from the embassy in Cairo that "sympathized" with the attackers didn't come directly from Obama, he is still responsible for it. He also said, "The first response from the U.S. must be outrage."
Foreign policy, a topic largely absent from the presidential election amidst a slow economic recovery, has recently come to the forefront of the campaign. Romney was criticized for failing to mention the war in Afghanistan and the troops in his convention speech, and does not have any practical foreign policy experience. Poll show voters trust Obama, who authorized the mission which killed Osama bin Laden, more on foreign policy than they do Romney.
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Corrected on : Corrected on 9/14/12: An earlier version of this story said that the offending video had been made by an Israeli living in the United States. Subsequent news reports have shown that it was made by an Egyptian Coptic Christian.