U.S. embassy staffer in Cairo ignored instructions not to release statement

A State Department official in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo ignored instructions not to release a statement on Tuesday denouncing religious intolerance, Foreign Policy reports.

The statement, which was an attempt to fend off protests against an anti-Islamic video created in the U.S., was released several hours before protests outside the embassy began, and has been used by Republicans to criticize the Obama administration for “apologizing” to the Arab world.

But U.S. officials told to Foreign Policy that the statement was created by Cairo senior public affairs officer Larry Schwartz, who was told by Washington not to post the statement without changing the language. According to unnamed officials quoted in Foreign Policy, Schwartz ignored the instructions.

“The statement was not cleared with anyone in Washington,” the official told FP. “It was sent as ‘This is what we are putting out.’ We replied and said this was not a good statement and that it needed major revisions. The next email we received from Embassy Cairo was, ‘We just put this out.’”

The official said this led to heated discussions within the State Department and White House, even looping in Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“People at the highest levels both at the State Department and at the White House were not happy with the way the statement went down. There was a lot of anger both about the process and the content,” the official told FP. “Frankly, people here did not understand it. The statement was just tone deaf. It didn't provide adequate balance. We thought the references to the 9/11 attacks were inappropriate, and we strongly advised against the kind of language that talked about ‘continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.’”

Even on Tuesday, administration officials tried to distance the White House from the statement.

“The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government,” an administration official told Politico.

The statement, in part, read, “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."

Mitt Romney has attacked President Obama over the statement, saying the first response to the breach of the embassy should have been outrage.

“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 the State Department,” Romney said on Wednesday.

Although the White House agrees with the overall message that the statement conveys, Obama has also sought to distance himself from it.

“In an effort to cool the situation down, it didn't come from me, it didn't come from Secretary Clinton," Obama told CBS . "It came from people on the ground who are potentially in danger. 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.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.