In an interview with ABC News that aired Friday morning, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney refused to back down from an attack he launched at President Obama on Tuesday over a statement put out by the U.S.’s embassy in Cairo.
The statement, which was written by a senior staffer at the Embassy, was critical of an American-made film that reportedly sparked widespread Muslim protests this week against America’s diplomats in Egypt, Libya and Yemen. The most notable incident resulted in the death of four Americans, including Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, who came under siege at a U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
More from ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos:
In our interview today, Mitt Romney did not back down from his belief that the Obama Administration’s first response to the Cairo protest demonstrated “sympathy” for the attackers, but he also made it clear that he was ready to move on.
“What I said was exactly the same conclusion the White House reached, which was that the statement was inappropriate. That’s why they backed away from it as well,” Romney told me.
The Cairo Embassy’s statement, released before it was attacked, said it rejects “the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
When I pointed out that the White House did not say the Embassy’s statement showed sympathy for the attackers, Romney stuck by his remarks.
“Well, I think the statement was an inappropriate statement. I think it was not directly applicable and appropriate for the setting. I think it shouldhave been taken down. And apparently the White House felt the same way,” he said.
In an interview with 60 Minutes on Tuesday President Obama said the statement “came from folks on the ground, who are potentially in danger. And, you know, my tendency is to cut folks a little bit of slack when they’re in that circumstance rather than try to question their judgment from the comfort of a campaign office.” He went on to accuse Romney of displaying a “tendency to shoot first, aim later.”
Romney wouldn’t take that bait. He didn’t respond directly to the President’s barb the first time I asked. When I followed up, all he would say is this: “Well, this is politics. I’m not going to worry about the campaign.”
Stephanopoulos also asked Romney to respond to Obama’s claim Wednesday that Egypt is neither an ally nor an enemy of the United States:
“That’s obviously not a reflection of our official policy,” Romney said. “American official policy is that Egypt is an ally of the United States. Of course, we recognize that Egypt has gone through a dramatic change in government. And what their status will be going forward in terms of the relationship with our nation is something which I’m sure will be developing over time.”
The Republican challenger to Obama then said that he’d “like to bring Egypt closer to us.”
“I think it’s important for them to understand that it’s an advantage to have a close relationship with the United States, to be an ally of the United States. And for that to continue, Egypt must honor their agreement with Israel, for peace with Israel. Egypt must also respect the rights of minorities in their nation. And Egypt must also protect the lives and sovereignty of our embassy and of our installations in Egypt. These elements are all essential for us to have the kind of relationship we’ve had.”