President Obama described Egypt as neither a friend nor a foe in a televised interview that aired first on The Rachel Maddow Show Wednesday.
"I don't think we would consider them an ally. But we don't consider them an enemy," Obama told Telemundo's José Díaz-Balart. "They are a new government that's trying to find its way."
Obama continued: "They were democratically elected. I think that we are going to have to respond to this incident, how they respond to maintaining the peace treaty with Israel."
The interview will be shown Thursday morning on Telemundo, but The Rachel Maddow Show aired exclusive early clips.
Maddow highlighted the significance of Obama's comment."In diplomacy, at the presidential level, words are chosen very, very carefully," she said. "And those words represent news in terms of the U.S. relationship with a country which had, during the time of Hosni Mubarak, been among America's closest allies in the Arab world."
In the interview, Obama also called for a full investigation to find out who was behind the deadly attack in Libya Tuesday that left four Americans dead—including the U.S. ambassador.
"Our hope is to be able to capture them, but we'll obviously have to cooperate with the Libyan government," Obama said.
A crowd stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo, too. In both cases, the riots were reportedly spurred by a crude anti-Islam video that was posted to YouTube and whose origins remain murky.
Obama said the U.S. is insisting that the country ensure that U.S. embassies and their personnel are protected. "If not, I think that's going to be a real big problem," said Obama.
Meanwhile, new evidence suggests that the attack in Libya may have been perpetrated by terrorists who used the mob uproar as cover for the deadly attack. Mitt Romney's campaign was criticized Wednesday for issuing a statement Tuesday night calling it "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." In fact, a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that condemned attacks on Islam was issued before the Embassy was breached.
On Telemundo, Obama reiterated that his GOP opponent has a "tendency to shoot before" he aims." As president," Obama said, "my obligation is to focus on security for our people, making sure that we're advancing American interests, not having ideological arguments on a day when we're mourning the loss of outstanding folks who have served our country very well."