By Julian Pecquet and Carlo Muñoz - 09/12/12 10:26 PM EDT
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz), the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said Wednesday that a U.S. embassy statement criticizing an anti-Islam film trailer for fostering violence was akin to blaming a woman for her rape.
In a scrum with reporters, Kyl called it “a very bad statement” that “had to be cleared by somebody” in the State Department. He compared it to a judge telling a rape victim "you asked for it because of the way you dressed.”
The Cairo embassy put out the statement early Tuesday afternoon as hundreds of protesters converged on the embassy compound to protest a U.S.-made anti-Islam movie trailer. The protest eventually turned violent, as did a similar protest in Benghazi, Libya, which left the U.S. ambassador to that country and three other officials dead.
“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions,” the statement said.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) joined Kyl in criticizing the White House for the statement, which also drew the ire of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
He said the Romney campaign would have been "roundly criticized" if it did not weigh in on the situation, adding that "it would be foolish" for a presidential candidate to not speak on such an significant foreign policy issue.
President Obama said in an interview with CBS that his administration had nothing to do with the embassy statement.
“In an effort to cool the situation down, it didn’t come from me, it didn’t come from Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton, it came from people on the ground who are potentially in danger,” he 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.
“I do have to say that, more broadly, we believe in the First Amendment. It is one of the hallmarks of our Constitution that I am sworn to uphold, so we’re always going to uphold the rights of individuals to speak their minds. On the other hand, this film is not representative of who we are, and our values, and I think it is important for us to communicate that. 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.”