The full text of his speech at the UN can be read here. The meat of the matter:
That is what we saw play out the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well – for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion – we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.
I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. 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. Moreover, 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 disagree with.
I know that not all countries in this body share this understanding of the protection of free speech. Yet in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.
I will not share my true opinion of this speech, as all that matters to me at the moment is stopping Rmoney from becoming the next president of the US. But some of what Obama said, and the manner of his presentation (that of a lecturer), did connect with the things a local Eritrean cab driver recently explained to me during a trip from Capitol Hill to Columbia City:
Before coming to the America I lived in Saudi Arabia and other countries in North Africa. And what I can tell you is this: The people in these counties, and also countries in East Africa, cannot believe that people in America actually speak for themselves and not for the government. Why? Because what they have seen all their lives is only the government speaking. When something is on TV, it is the government speaking. When something is in the newspapers, it is the government speaking. You see what I mean? Something on the internet, it is the government speaking again. The government never allows anyone else to speak. So, they think it is the same in America. That video about their prophet doing very bad, very evil things? That has to be the government speaking. So they go to the American embassy and try to burn it to the ground. They just can't believe a person can actually speak for themselves and not be in trouble with the government. This is what is going on.