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Did the U.S. apologize for the Cairo embassy attack?

Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo Sept. 11, 2012.
Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo Sept. 11, 2012. AP Photo

Updated 12:15 a.m. ET Sept. 12, 2012

(CBS News) After a massive crowd of angry Egyptians began amassing outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, furious over an anti-Muslim film produced in the U.S., the embassy there released a statement saying it did not support any anti-religious efforts.

"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 statement began.

Conservatives have pounced on the statement, calling it an "apology," and the White House responded by saying it had not approved the statement before its release.

"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.

It appears the White House was attempting to get ahead of an oft-used conservative trope on Democrats, namely that they have an apparent "apologize first" approach to foreign policy.

Mitt Romney's campaign wasted little time late Tuesday trying to turn the embassy's statement into an effort to strengthen his foreign policy credentials.

In a statement, Romney said: "I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. 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 referring to a similar incident at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which one consulate worker was killed and another wounded on Tuesday by a crowd protesting the same film. No Americans were harmed at the incident in Egypt.

Early Wednesday, the Obama campaign responded with a statement of its own, saying, "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."

Also Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed some of the tone of the Cairo Embassy's statement, but at the start of her official statement condemned "in the strongest terms" the attacks in Benghazi.

Clinton said: "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. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."

(Below, watch a report from on the Cairo embassy attack.)

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