HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- During the high-energy pre-wash cycle of the second presidential debate, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) took a tough stand against what he called Republican Mitt Romney's politicization of the violence in Libya that claimed four American lives on Sept. 11.

"The people of the United States understand that when there’s a tragedy that involves the loss of life in an embassy, and people go through what we've gone through, we bond together as a country and you don’t make it a political football," Kerry said. "I don't remember a political football when 3,000 people died about 40 miles away from here and you had 9/11. There was no political football. We came together as a country. And I think it’s disgraceful to be trying to make this a political issue."

Kerry said he was referring not only to Romney's criticism of the administration's response to the attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi, but also to the out-of-session hearings that congressional Republicans have held on the issue. He said both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took responsibility for the attacks -- and characterized them as terrorist attacks from the beginning. 

"We worked with Chris Stevens," Kerry said. "I know him. He worked on our Foreign Relations Committee for (Indiana Sen.) Dick Lugar. We all feel his loss as much as anybody, and from Day One, we've been working to get all the answers and so has the administration. The president takes responsibility and Hillary Clinton has taken responsibility. That should be enough for people, and it’s a disgrace to come out and make that a political issue, a disgrace."