South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint is one of a handful of Republicans criticizing the White House over its preparedness and response to riots that killed an American ambassador earlier this week.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed when rioters stormed the U.S. consulate in the city of Benghazi, Libya. That followed another riot at the American embassy in Egypt. Rioters in both attacks claim they were angered by a low-budget, American film which mocked the prophet Mohammed, although other reports suggest the attack was premeditated. The violence continued Thursday, with protestors storming the American embassy in Yemen.
Much political controversy has centered on a release from the Egyptian embassy shortly before the riots flared out of control. In a brief statement, embassy unsuccessfully tried to head off the violence: “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.”
That drew the criticism of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who suggested that the Obama Administration’s first response was to “sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” However, President Obama made it clear the following morning that he condemned the attacks, saying the statement by the Egyptian embassy was made without the White House’s knowledge.
Most Republicans distanced themselves from Romney’s remarks, instead condemning the attack and expressing sorrow at Stevens’s death. However, Sen. DeMint came to Romney’s defense. “(The State Department) basically apologized to the Muslim world for some video that someone put on over here,” DeMint told Greenwood station WCRS on Wednesday, “They essentially excused this thing.”
However, DeMint then took it a step further and questioned why there was not better security around the Libyan consulate, especially since the building had been previously attacked in June. “That we didn’t have more reinforcements around our embassy, it’s really just intolerable.”
DeMint says the lack of protection by Libyan and Egyptian security is a sign that the U.S. has lost respect around the world.
The state’s six other Republican congressmen have avoided criticizing the White House at this point, although Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News that he worried Obama’s overall Mideast strategy would lead to an explosive situation. Rep. Jeff Duncan also criticized the Egyptian embassy’s statement, but did not directly link it to the President in his own interview with WCRS.
The state’s remaining congressman have largely condemned the attack and expressed sympathy for the victims.
Anne Eller of Greenwood affiliate WCRS contributed to this report