On the evening of Tuesday September 11th, just hours after protesters of a YouTube video denouncing Islam stormed the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and Egyptian demonstrators attacked the United States Embassy in Egypt, the Romney campaign rushed a statement to reporters accusing the Obama administration of failing to condemn the attacks and linking the protests to “Obama’s failed Middle East policies.”
The campaign’s response disregarded Romney’s self-imposed pledge not to engage in partisan mudslinging on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, though it came before news broke that four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed in the violence. The Romney team was so eager to connect Obama to the unrest, however, it urged reporters to ignore its initial midnight embargo and print the criticism on Tuesday night:
MITT ROMNEY: “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.”
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus chimed in on Twitter:
Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt.Sad and pathetic.
— Reince Priebus (@Reince) September 12, 2012
The GOP’s charge accusing Obama of apologizing for terrorism came in response to an early statement from the American Embassy in Egypt “shorty after noon” on Tuesday, before the attacks began. The statement condemned the intolerant film, but could not speak out against violence that had not yet occurred. “The United States Embassy 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,” it said, denouncing the “unjustified breach of our embassy.”
The administration distanced itself from the Embassy, noting that its statement “was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government,” and then denounced the violence and deaths that occurred.
However, President Obama released a statement this morning condemning the attacks and rejecting the anti-Islam video. “I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens,” Obama said in a statement released on Wednesday morning. “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.”
In 2006, the Bush administration similarly criticized cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed that sparked protests throughout Europe. “Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images,” which are routinely published in the Arab press, “as anti-Christian images, or any other religious belief,” said Bush administration State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.