Deadly anti-U.S. protests erupted in Pakistan despite an unusual ad on Pakistani TV featuring President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denouncing the movie "Innocence of Muslims," the anti-Islam video that has fueled much of the Pakistani fury.
The ads have been running this week on seven different Pakistani television stations in an attempt to cool tempers over the film, but today's protests were the largest seen so far since the controversy began in Pakistan last week with the attempted storming of the U.S. embassy.
The Pakistani government declared a national holiday to honor the prophet, sending people into the streets in cities across the country. In several cities the protests turned deadly with reports of at least 15 people killed.
In Karachi, where there was the most violence, at least 12 people were killed, including two policemen. The police were able to keep the protesters away from the United States consulate there.
In Peshawar, protesters torched two movie theaters and at least two people were killed, but the violence occurred a significant distance from the U.S. consulate.
Protesters in Islamabad were able to get closer to the area where the U.S. and other Western embassies are based, but police fired tear gas and live rounds in the air to disperse the crowd. By the end of the day it was estimated around 80,000 people were marching.
Clinton spoke about the violence before a meeting with her Pakistani counterpart, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. Calling the video "offensive, disgusting, and reprehensible," Clinton reiterated that the video may be provocative, but is still not a justification to commit violent acts.
"It's important for responsible leaders, indeed responsible people everywhere to stand up and speak out against violence, and particularly against those who would exploit this difficult moment to advance their own extremist ideologies," said Clinton.
Khar did not say anything explicitly about the national holiday declared today, but did thank Clinton for her public denouncing of the video.
"Your condemnation has given a strong message that the United States government not only condemns it, but has absolutely no support for such blasphemous videos or content anywhere,"said Khar. "I think that is an important message, and that message should go a long way in ending the violence on many streets in the world."
In Pakistan, Charge D'Affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland met with the Pakistan government and issued a statement that Hoagland "reiterated that the United States government has condemned this video's content and its message and emphasized that the United States Government has nothing to do with it."
On Thursday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland confirmed that the U.S. government has been running ads condemning "The Innocence of Muslims" on Pakistan television. The ads, which feature Obama and Clinton denouncing the anti-Muslim film have been running this week on seven different Pakistani television stations. The State Department has paid $70,000 to stations to run them. State officials said some Pakistani outlets carried the ad free of charge, but others used it as a paid public service announcement, and added their own required labeling that the video was paid content.
Obama Ad on Pakistani TV to Denounce Controversial Movie
"This was a short message. It includes the U.S. seal to make it clear that it's official, and it also includes a notice that the ads were paid," said Nuland. "As you know, after the video came out, there was concern in lots of bodies politic, including Pakistan, as to whether this represented the views of the U.S. government. So in order to ensure we reached the largest number of Pakistanis -- some 90 million -- it was the judgment that this was the best way to do it."
The messages run about 30 seconds, and are a compilation of speeches and YouTube clips edited together. The production was overseen by the U.S. embassy in Islamabad with input from the State Department in Washington.
The ads show Obama saying, "Since our founding, the United States has been a nation of respect, that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others."
Clinton follows with a speech she's made several times since the crisis in the Middle East began unfolding last week.
"Let me state very clearly that the United States has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its contents. America's commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation," she says in the video.
The effectiveness of the announcements is still in question. Nuland said today that it was still too early to evaluate whether the messages are working, given the massive protests.
"I don't think it's going to be realistic to give you kind of a metric report on our efforts in this week or next," said Nuland.