WASHINGTON – President Obama said Wednesday that Republican rival Mitt Romney has a “tendency to shoot first and aim later.”
There’s a “broader lesson” in Romney’s criticism of the Obama administration for the way it has handled the violence in Egypt and Libya this week, Obama told “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft.
“Gov. Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later,” Obama said, “and one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that. That, you know, it’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts.”
Though scheduled days in advance, the interview took place as the White House was caught up in its response to the violent protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The protesters were angry about a newly released anti-Islamic film made in the U.S.
In Libya, men armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the consulate and killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens Tuesday night.
Romney criticized the Obama administration, complaining that it had expressed sympathy for the protesters. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions,” the Republican presidential candidate said in an overnight statement, “but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
In the light of day Wednesday, it turned out that the statement from the embassy in Cairo condemning efforts to “hurt the religious feelings of Muslims” had come out early in the day, well before the protesters made it into the embassy.
But Romney did not back away from his criticism of Obama. Republicans noted that the embassy stood by its morning statement even after the walls of the compound were breached, issuing a one-sentence comment via the social media site Twitter. “Neither breaches of our compound or angry messages will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech AND criticizing bigotry,” it said.
Still, Romney had cited not an ambassadorial or White House statement but a tweet, raising questions about whether he had sorted out the facts before speaking.
Asked whether Romney’s attacks were irresponsible, the president told Kroft, “I’ll let the American people judge that.”