WASHINGTON – Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticized the Obama administration in the wake of attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya on Tuesday, branding as "disgraceful" an early response to the assault in Cairo as sympathizing with the attackers.
The assaults were linked to a video being promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian in the U.S. Protesters say the video posted on the Internet, a 14-minute trailer for a movie, attacks Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
Protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to replace the American flag with an Islamic banner. In the Libyan city of Benghazi, an American was shot to death as protesters burned and looted the U.S. consulate.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a statement saying, in part, that it 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 statement, an apparent reference to the video, was posted hours before the American's death in Libya was reported.
In a statement Tuesday night, Romney said he was outraged by the attacks and the death of the American consulate worker. He added: "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."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a statement released about the same time as Romney's, condemned the attack in Libya "in the strongest terms."
"Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet," Clinton said. "The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."
In response to Romney, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an email early Wednesday: "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, Gov. Romney would choose to launch a political attack."