(Update: President Obama issued a statement Wednesday morning, shortly after 7 a.m., saying he has ordered "all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe." Obama also condemned the violence in both Libya and Egypt: "I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi." The four Americans "exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe," he said.)
(CNSNews.com) - On Sept. 11, the day Americans remembered the 2001 terror attacks on U.S. soil, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a statement condemning "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims."
The statement -- interpreted by many as an apology for Tuesday's attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo -- drew strong condemnation, but not from President Obama, who as of 6:45 Wednesday morning had said nothing publicly about the attack in Cairo -- or the one in Libya, where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate.
“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 presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Tuesday in a statement.
(The Obama campaign criticized Romney for his response: "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," an Obama campaign spokesman was quoted as saying.)
The White House, through an “administration official,” distanced itself from the embassy statement: "The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government," an administration official told Politico.
The violence in Cairo, where protestors climbed the walls of the U.S. embassy, ripping down the American flag and replacing it with an Islamic banner, was followed by an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where protesters killed the U.S. ambassador and three other American embassy staffers.
The attacks in both countries were sparked by Muslim outrage over a film ridiculing the Mohammad. Excerpts of the obscure film, produced by an Israeli-American filmmaker living in California, were dubbed into Arabic and posted on YouTube.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday night confirmed that one State Department officer had been killed in the protest at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. She strongly condemned the attack and said she had called Libyan President Mohammed el-Megarif "to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya."
Clinton expressed concern that the protests might spread to other countries. She said the U.S. is working with "partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide."
The statement issued by the U.S. embassy in on Tuesday read as follows:
"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."
Later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- commenting on the deadly attack in Libya – said: "I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.
“This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation.
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. 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 light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide."
As of 6:49 a.m. Wednesday, there was no comment about the violence in Egypt or Libya on the White House website.
But a short time later, the White House issued the following statement from President Obama:
"I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.
"I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. 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.
"On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya’s transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.
"The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward."