White House, Romney Respond to Attack on U.S. Embassy in Libya

President Barack Obama speaking in the Rose Garden this morning as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks on. (Photo: Getty)

This morning, President Barack Obama delivered a statement from the White House Rose Garden on the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in a rocket attack last night. The attack occurred during a protest outside the U.S. embassy in response to a trailer for a movie that was posted online last month and paints an insulting picture of the life of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Mr. Obama vowed that, in the wake of the attacks, his administration will work to secure American diplomatic posts and identify those responsible for the four deaths.

“Today, the American people stand united in holding the families of the four Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers. The United States condemns, in the strongest terms, this outrageous and shocking attack,” said Mr. Obama. “We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world. Make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.”

Protests over the film also occurred at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Mr. Obama acknowledged that America’s founding principles “reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” but he said there was no excuse for the attacks.

“There is absolutely no justification to this type of senseles violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal attacks,” Mr. Obama said.

Though Mr. Obama harshly condemned the attacks, he promised it would not affect the United States’ relationship with the new Libyan government that has been coming together after the civil war last year that removed dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

“This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya,” said Mr. Obama. “Libyan security personnel fought back against the attackers alongside Americans. Libyans helped some of our diplomats find safety and they carried Ambassador Stevens’ body to the hospital.”

Mr. Obama said the situation was “especially tragic” because it occurred in Benghazi, Libya’s revolutionary capital. The President said Mr. Stevens “helped to save” Benghazi by building “partnerships with Libyan revolutionaries” and helping them as “they planned to build a new Libya.” He also noted the attack occurred on September 11, “already a solemn day for our nation.”

Mr. Obama ended his speech by urging his audience to recognize the sacrifices made by Mr. Stevens and others who have died while serving the country.

“As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it and, in some cases, lay down their lives for it,” he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a similar statement a few minutes before the President. She also stood by him as he made his remarks. In her statement, Ms. Clinton said she had communicated with Libya’s interim president and was confident the ties between our countries would not be a “casualty” of the attacks.

“As long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace,” Ms. Clinton said. “The job of putting an end to violent extremism and building a safe and stable world continues.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a statement on the attacks last night in which he condemned the Obama administration

“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,” said Mr. Romney.

Mr. Romney was apparently referring to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo prior to the attack in Libya that apologized for anti-Muslim activity in the United States. The White House later disavowed that statement, but this morning, Mr. Romney said he stood by his initial criticism of Mr. Obama saying the President has “has demonstrated a lack of clarity as to a foreign policy.”

The Obama campaign said they were “shocked” Mr. Romney would “launch a political attack” during “a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya.” White House, Romney Respond to Attack on U.S. Embassy in Libya