JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Republican Mitt Romney slammed the Obama administration's handling of foreign affairs in the wake of attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya, as the presidential campaign lurched back to negative mode after a one-day pause for reflection over the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Romney branded the administration's early response to the attacks as "disgraceful," in a statement the former Massachusetts governor released before confirmation that the American ambassador had been killed.
Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt fired back that the campaign was "shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack."
U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three American members of his staff were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi. Libyan officials said the attack was carried out by protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammed.
President Barack Obama, in a statement Wednesday morning, strongly condemned "this outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi." He said he has directed administration officials "to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe."
Romney was expected to address the killings during comments in Jacksonville, Fla., Wednesday morning.
His statement said the administration's early response to the attacks seemed to sympathize with the attackers.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo had issued a statement saying, in part, that it condemns "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims - as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions." The statement, an apparent reference to the video, was posted hours before the Americans' death in Libya was reported.
Romney said he was outraged by the attacks. He added, "It's 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."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a statement released at about the same time as Romney's, condemned the attack in Libya "in the strongest terms."
Tuesday's pause for Sept. 11 remembrances of the 9/11 attacks had the two campaigns essentially in a stand-down mode. But with the dawn of a new day - and the violence half a world away - the political landscape at home was again wide open to negative ads and fierce statements, as the candidates were spreading out from Florida to Ohio to Nevada.