NEW YORK--Republican nominee Mitt Romney said he has not seen the inflammatory film that has ignited protests in the Middle East but called it “dispiriting … to see some of the awful things people say.”
“The idea of using something that some people consider sacred and then parading that out in a negative way is simply inappropriate and wrong. And I wish people wouldn’t do it,” Romney said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
But, he added, “of course, we have a First Amendment. And under the First Amendment, people are allowed to do what they feel they want to do. They have the right to do that, but it’s not right to do things that are of the nature of what was done by, apparently this film.”
The statements aired on Friday were strikingly similar to what President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have been saying since anti-American protests in Cairo and Benghazi, Libya, and the attacks that killed four diplomats in Libya.
Romney went on the attack Tuesday night as developments were unfolding and drew widespread criticism both for his timing and for confusing the chronology of events. In the ABC interview, he reiterated his criticism of a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, calling it “not directly applicable and appropriate for the setting.” The statement, condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims,” was a preemptive attempt to calm outrage over the film, which denigrates the Prophet Muhammad.
The Cairo embassy statement came six hours before protesters gathered and breached the grounds. Romney acknowledged the timing but pointed out that it then remained on the site for 14 to 15 more hours. “It stayed up. And they reiterated the statement after they breached the wall, even after some of the tragedy in Libya, the statement stayed up,” he said. The reiteration, which also condemned the breach of grounds, came three hours before the State Department announced that one person had been killed in an attack in Libya.
Romney also seemed unclear on the origin of the anti-Muslim film, which has been promoted by controversial pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla. Asked about a request that Jones stop promoting the movie, he replied, “I think the whole film is a terrible idea. I think him making it, promoting it, [and] showing it is disrespectful to people of other faiths. I don’t think that should happen. I think people should have the common courtesy and judgment--the good judgment--not to be--not to offend other peoples’ faiths. It’s a very bad thing, I think, [what] this guy’s doing.” The government has identified Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian in Southern California, as a force behind the movie, but the identity of the actual filmmaker is still unclear.
Romney was also critical of Obama’s comments in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo this week, in which he said would not consider Egypt an ally, "but we don't consider them an enemy." “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.”
He did acknowledge that due to last year’s uprising and change in leadership, relations with Egyptian government have been altered. “The president’s saying they are not [an ally] may reflect the fact that there’s been a change in government and a change in relationship as a result of that. But they are today, officially, an ally of the United States.”
Romney and his vice presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, are scheduled to start receiving national security briefings from the intelligence community next week, his campaign confirmed. It is standard procedure for a presidential candidate to begin receiving intelligence briefings once he officially becomes the nominee. The briefings are not as in depth as the daily briefings the president receives, and they focus on trouble spots throughout the world.