Film Prompts Riots, Murder Of U.s. Ambassador
U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three members of his staff were killed early today (Wednesday) in Benghazi, Libya by protesters angered over a two-hour film, Innocence of Muslims, ridiculing the Islamic religion in general and its Prophet Muhammad in particular. The State Department has not confirmed the death of the ambassador, but news reports cited several officials as saying that Stevens was killed when he went to the consulate to help evacuate its staff after it came under attack by a mob armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades. A similar attack was reported at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The film that sparked the violence was produced, directed and written by Sam Bacile, an Israeli filmmaker living in California. It reportedly was financed by members of Egypt's Coptic Christian church and promoted in the U.S. by the Rev. Terry Jones, who sparked similar outrage when he burned the Quran at his Florida church. A 13-minute trailer of the film. in English and Arabic, has been posted on YouTube. New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick concluded that, based on the trailer, "it's not only the most offensive but the most thoroughly inept piece of 'filmmaking' I've had the misfortune to watch in 30 years of reviewing films. ... Not only is the depiction of Mohammed as a sex-mad killer enough to enrage Muslims, but every aspect of this production is so amateurish that nobody in their right mind would let [the filmmaker] within 500 yards of movie equipment. ... If it weren't so despicable, this could almost pass for a parody of a hate video." The events in Egypt and Libya may also have prompted the cancellation of a serious documentary questioning the origins of Islam that was to have been shown at the headquarters of Britain's Channel 4. The film, Islam The Untold Story , narrated by historian Tom Holland, drew more than 1,000 complaints when it aired two weeks ago. The broadcaster said it had canceled the screening under "security advice." The attacks quickly became a political issue in the U.S. presidential campaign. Before they began the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a statement condemning "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." Following the attacks, Secretary of State Clinton issued a statement saying, "Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. ... But let me be clear There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind." However, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared to ignore the fact that the criticism of the film by the embassy was issued prior to the attacks, responding, "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." Romney's statement was applauded by supporters who posted hundreds of comments on websites and blogs reviling "our Islam-loving president" and calling for military action against the protesters. But a spokesman for the Obama campaign said in a statement, "We are 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."