MSNBC hosts Chuck Todd and Lawrence O'Donnell say that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney miscalculated badly when he decided to attack President Barack Obama for "sympathizing" with the enemy after the deaths of U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and at least three members of his staff.
In the hours before the protest in Benghazi that left Stevens dead, the U.S. State Department had released a statement over a film that mocked the Prophet Muhammad. That film, "Innocence of Muslims," had been recently given Arabic subtitles and promoted by Terry Jones, a U.S. pastor who had previously sparked deadly riots threatening to burn Qurans.
"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," the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said prior to the protests. "Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."
After the attacks, the State Department tweeted that it stood by its earlier statement and condemned the "unjustified breach of the Embassy." The White House later disavowed the statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, saying it had not been cleared in advanced.
But the Romney campaign wasted no time in using the deaths to attack Obama.
"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," the candidate said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus echoed Romney's remarks in a tweet: "Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic."
"Apparently President Obama can’t see Egypt and Libya from his house," former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin wrote on Facebook. "It’s about time our president stood up for America and condemned these Islamic extremists. ... We already know that President Obama likes to 'speak softly' to our enemies. If he doesn’t have a 'big stick' to carry, maybe it’s time for him to grow one."
On Tuesday morning, MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell observed that the Romney campaign would have been better off "to say nothing because the fact is if you say something responsible and careful, it's just going to be ignored. The only thing that will get attention is if you say something stupid, which is what they've managed to do."
"The only way to get attention is to say something a little outrageous," MSNBC host Chuck Todd agreed. "And I have to say, I am stunned they put out this release when they did, before we knew all the facts, before daybreak, before we know for sure whether there are going to be protests that spread around the world."
"It seemed to be an irresponsible thing to do," he added. "And it's one that I'm fascinated to see this morning that the Romney campaign, no mention. Suddenly they put out a debt statement. I have a feeling they wish they had that moment back, they wish they had that statement back. I understand where they feel like they are, they are chasing news cycles right now and they feel as if they have to be involved in every news cycle and every event if the president is involved in order to look on equal footing. But that was a bad mistake they made last night."
Moments later, Redstate's Erick Erickson was blasting Todd on Twitter.
"While I think Romney must be delicate, I think NBC's analysis from Chuck Todd that R's response was a mistake is partisan crazy talk," he wrote.
"I would have liked to see a statement [from Romney] that looked more like leading, presenting a vision, less like 'again, Obama sucks,'" former Republican National Committee online communication director Liz Mair said in response Erickson.
Watch this video from MSNBC's Morning Joe, broadcast Sept. 12, 2012.