Obama defends Cairo embassy staff

September 12, 2012

In excerpts from a "60 Minutes" interview airing Sunday, President Obama defended the staffers in the Cairo embassy who condemned anti-Muslim commentary hours before protesters scaled the embassy walls, saying we should "cut folks a little slack" when they face danger. But he emphasized that the statement did not come from him for from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

The statement, which in part  condemned "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims" was an effort to cool tensions inspired by an anti-Muslim movie. Republicans -- including Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney -- have argued that the words suggest sympathy for the protesters who breached the Cairo embassy walls and those who attacked a consulate in Libya, killing four Americans. The White House distanced itself from the statement Tuesday night.

“In an effort to cool the situation down, it didn’t come from me, it didn’t come form Secretary Clinton, it came from people on the ground who are potentially in danger," Obama told CBS. "And 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 added, that while "we believe in the First Amendment ... this film is not representative of who we are, and our values, and I think it is important for us to communicate that."

Obama again condemned the attacks. "That’s never an excuse for violence against Americans, which is why my No. 1 priority and my initial statement focused on making sure that not only are Americans safe, but that we go after anyone that would attack Americans,” he said. 

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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Rachel Weiner · September 12, 2012