A spokesman for the US embassy in Cairo confirmed that his post had been monitoring local media reaction to the controversial film. But he added that they were focused on the content of the movie and not on which Egyptian media outlets were reporting on it, or on their political bias. “Our response to the video was based on the content of the video itself, not on who was sharing it in Egypt,” wrote David Linfield, acting press attaché at the US Cairo embassy, in an email.

Linfield said the embassy did pick up the warning signals in the daily local press briefs that get sent to Washington, DC. “We did,” Linfield said, in a subsequent phone interview from Cairo. “That’s why we started preparing and so on.” He said the embassy prepared a statement condemning the attempts of some individuals in the US to “hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”

But as the embassy worked to douse the flames, others were fanning them.

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Emad Mekay has written for The New York Times, Bloomberg, and the Inter Press Service in the Middle East. A 2012 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford, he is an Investigative Journalism Fellow at the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley.