Wednesday, September 12, 2012

U.S. Embassy's Initial Statement Criticizing Anti-Muslim Video Leads To Political Controversy

As reported by CBS News, the statement initially issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt yesterday as demonstrators outside it began to protest an anti-Muslim film made in the United States has created a political controversy.  The Embassy statement read as follows in full:
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. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
Then, after word also came of attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, but before it was known that U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens had been killed, Republican nominee Mitt Romney issued the following statement:
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.
Then, as reported by ABC News, the Obama administration moved to distance itself from the statement issued by the Cairo embassy. An administration official said: "no one in Washington approved that statement before it was released and it doesn’t reflect the views of the U.S. government."

This morning, Mitt Romney renewed his criticism in a statement (full text) delivered in Jacksonville, Florida. He said in part:
We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our Constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution, because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.
I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.
The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn’t cleared by Washington. That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.
Then in response to a reporter's question, Romney added:
The president takes responsibility not just for the words that come from his mouth, but also for the words that come from his ambassadors , from his administration, form his embassies, from his state department. They clearly sent mixed messages to the world. The statement that came from the administration — and the embassy is the administration — the statement that came from the administration was a statement which is akin to apology. And I think was a severe miscalculation. They clearly ...sent mixed messages to the world.
 Meanwhile, at the White House today, President Obama released a statement which reads in part:
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi.... While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.