President Barack Obama gave his highly-anticipated speech in front of the United Nations General Assembly this morning, posing a challenge to the international community that the roots of turmoil in the Middle East be confronted.
Considering recent events, Obama discussed the ongoing anti-American turmoil unfolding across the globe. In his speech, he declared that "there are no words that excuse the killing of innocent" and that there is "no video that justifies an attack on an embassy."
After heralding democracy and prior to delving into the importance of free speech, Obama made it known that the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" is "an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well."
Despite speaking out against the film and reiterating that the government wasn't involved in its production, the president took the time to defend the freedom of speech -- even thoughts and ideas that are found to be offensive to some. Here's s a portion of Obama's defense of the First Amendment:
"Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. As president of our country, and commander in chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so.
Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views -- even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.
We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities. We do so because, given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech -- the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect."
The president did take the time to lambaste those who decry insults against the Prophet Muhammad, but who ignore insults waged against Jesus Christ and other symbols of religious importance.
"The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam but to be credible those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated or churches destroyed or the Holocaust that is denied," Obama proclaimed.
Watch some of Obama's comments, below:
Obama also told the U.N. General Assembly that he wants to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program through diplomacy -- but that the time to do that is not unlimited.
The president says that time after time, Iran has failed to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful and has failed to meet its obligations to the United Nations. He also says the Iranian government has been propping up the dictatorship in Syria and supporting terrorist groups abroad.
The president says, quote, "the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
This is Obama's final international address before the November elections -- one that critics were playing close attention to. Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, had some stinging words for the president on Fox News this morning. When asked to grade the speech, he gave it a C.
"It was like a great big warm fuzzy blanket. The president comes out in favor of tolerance. There's your breaking news," Bolton quipped. "The problem with the speech was that it was infused with the fallacy of moral equivalency -- that there's sort of extremism and intolerance everywhere and it's all the same."
Watch Bolton's comments, below:
Bolton also noted that, while Obama did an excellent job defending the First Amendment, he seemed -- at least in the ambassador's view -- to tell dictators that the U.S. understands their dislike for speech freedoms. This, Bolton contended, isn't a favorable message to be conveying (a transcript shows that Obama said that the U.S. "recognizes" different ideas on the First Amendment, not that the administration "accepts" these divergent views).
This is a breaking news story. Stay tuned for updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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