Both Mitt Romney and Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus released harsh statements on Tuesday condemning what they said was President Obama's decision to "sympathize" with the people who attacked America's embassy in Cairo.
"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 Romney in a statement. Shortly after midnight, Priebus tweeted, "Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic."
The Romney and Priebus remarks followed those made by U.S. embassy staff, posted online, in which they said, "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 attack on the embassy was reportedly inspired by a YouTube video, produced in the United States, which the attackers believed blasphemed Islam and mocked the prophet Muhammad.
The Obama administration refuted Romney and Priebus' insinuation that it endorsed the embassy's statement. A White House official told Politico that the embassy's statement was "not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government."
Nonetheless, on Wednesday, Romney reiterated his attack in a televised press conference.
"The administration was wrong to release a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions," he said. "It's never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values."
When challenged by the press on the timing of his remarks, Romney defended his comment.
"The president takes responsibility not just for the words that come from his mouth, but also for the words that come from his ambassadors, from his administration, from his embassies, from his State Department," Romney said. "They clearly sent mixed messages to the world. And the statement that came from the administration—and the embassy is the administration—the statement that came from the administration was a statement which is akin to an apology and which I think is a sever miscalculation."
After the embassy statement met criticism, a follow-up tweet from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo's official Twitter account said, "Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech AND criticizing bigotry."
LATE UPDATE: The New York Times reports that the Cairo embassy's initial statement was released "before the start of the protests," and describes Romney as "[a]pparently unaware of the timing."