ASHEVILLE, N.C. â€”Â Mitt RomneyÂ lashed out atÂ President ObamaÂ and his campaign for saying that theÂ GOPÂ ticket had politicized the killing of an ambassador and three other Americans in Libya, saying Thursday evening that their reaction shows that they do not understand the threats facingÂ the nation.
â€œThey said this and I quote: ‘The entire reason this has become the political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney andÂ Paul Ryan.’ No, President Obama, itâ€™s an issue because this is the first time in 33 years that a United States ambassador has been assassinated,â€ Romney told thousands of supporters in a stadium here. â€œMr. President, this is an issue because we were attacked successfully by terrorists on the anniversary ofÂ 9/11. President Obama, this is an issue because Americans wonder why it was it took so long for you and your administration to admit that this was a terrorist attack.â€
â€œThis is a very serious issue,â€ he continued. â€œThese are very serious questions, and the American people deserve serious answers and I hope they come soon.â€
Romney was referring not to an Obama comment but to one from his deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter. Cutter was being pressed on the matter on CNN earlier Thursday when she said, â€œThe entire reason that this has become the, you know, political topic it is, is because of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It’s a big part of their stump speech and itâ€™s reckless and irresponsible what theyâ€™re doing.”
The administration initially blamed the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on spontaneous protests over an anti-Muslim film produced in the United States. But it quickly came to light that the attack that resulted in the death of Ambassador J.Â Christopher Stevenswas a coordinated terrorist assault. The administration is under scrutiny for not immediately labeling it as such, and questions have also been raised about why the diplomatic mission was not sufficiently protected.
The Obama campaign accused Romney of irresponsibly trying to score political points, and noted that his initial reaction to the attack was widely panned not only by political observers but by fellow Republicans.
â€œWhile President Obama has been focused on getting the facts, finding the terrorists responsible, and bringing them to justice, Mitt Romney has attempted to use the tragedy to his political advantage,â€ said spokeswoman Lis Smith.
â€œThe American people deserve better from someone auditioning to be commander-in-chief.â€
Romney leveled his criticism during a raucous rally with several thousand supporters here, shortly before his running mate, Paul Ryan, was scheduled to go head-to-head with Vice PresidentÂ Joe BidenÂ in a debate in Kentucky. House SpeakerJohn A. BoehnerÂ mentioned the upcoming debate in his introduction of Romney.