U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton advised an audience Saturday in Tunisia to "not pay attention" to the comments made by candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination, saying the often-overheated rhetoric of the campaign doesn't reflect U.S. policy.
Speaking at a town-hall style event in the nation that sparked the "Arab Spring" revolts, Clinton said the partisan remarks made during campaign events "certainly don't reflect the United States, don't reflect our foreign policy, don't reflect who we are as a people."
Clinton's remarks came in response to a question from an audience member who said he was troubled by some of the candidates' comments, which he considered anti-Muslim.
"If you go to the United States, you see mosques everywhere, you see Muslim-Americans everywhere. That's the fact. So I would not pay attention to the rhetoric," she said.
She advised people to listen instead to President Obama. "I think that will be a very clear signal to the entire world as to what our values are," she said.
She added that she is sometimes surprised that people around the world pay more attention to what's said in U.S. political campaigns than do most Americans.
"I think you have to shut out some of the rhetoric and just focus on what we're doing and what we stand for and, particularly, what our president represents," she said.
Obama has come under fierce criticism from Republicans for apologizing for the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.
GOP hopeful Newt Gingrich said while campaigning that the apology was "astonishing" and that Obama "has gone so far at appeasing radical Islamists that he is failing in his duty as commander in chief."
In her speech, Clinton appealed for countries in the Mideast and North Africa to fulfill the promise of reform offered by the Arab Spring.
She said the continued embrace of reforms in Tunisia would serve as a powerful example elsewhere.
Her comments came amid concerns that transitions in Egypt and elsewhere are faltering and at risk of being hijacked by extremists.
Later, in Algeria, she carried the same message: "The people of [North Africa] are as talented, creative and hard-working as people anywhere in the world. They need and deserve the opportunity to make decisions on behalf of themselves, because that is good for the dignity and rights of every individual, and it is good for every society."