President Obama has raised some eyebrows by suggesting in his interview with VOX.com that the shooting at a Kosher supermarket in Paris last month was “random.” It was a comment the president made in making the case that the media overstates the terrorist threat and that his job fighting terrorism is akin to a big-city mayor fighting crime.
"It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you've got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris," Obama told Vox's Matt Yglesias in the interview.
"We devote enormous resources to that, and it is right and appropriate for us to be vigilant and aggressive in trying to deal with that — the same way a big city mayor's got to cut the crime rate down if he wants that city to thrive. But we also have to attend to a lot of other issues, and we've got to make sure we're right-sizing our approach so that what we do isn't counterproductive."
Asked about the president's suggestion that the market was not targeted by the group because it was Kosher, White House spokesman Josh Earnest doubled down on Obama's characterization that the selection of target was "random."
Here's my exchange with Earnest at today's White House press briefing:
KARL: This was not a random shooting of a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. This was an attack on a kosher deli. Does the president have any doubt that those terrorists attacked that deli because there would be Jews in that deli?
EARNEST: Well, Jon, it is clear from the -- the terrorists, in some of the writings that they put out afterwards, what their motivation was. The adverb that the president chose was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in that terrible tragic incident were killed not because of who they were, but because of where they randomly happened to be.
KARL: Well, they weren't killed because they were in a Jewish deli, though? Because they were in a kosher deli?
EARNEST: These individuals were not targeted by name. This is the point.
KARL: Not by name but by -- by religion, were they not?
EARNEST: Well, Jon, there were people other than just Jews who were in that deli.
KARL: So you think that was a -- that deli was attacked because it was a kosher deli...
EARNEST: No, Jon. Any random deli, Jon.
KARL: It was a kosher deli.
EARNEST: I answered the question once. No.
Earnest later tweeted a clarification to his and the president's remarks, saying the official White House position is that the terror attack at the Paris Kosher market last month was an act of anti-Semitism.
Our view has not changed. Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism. POTUS didn't intend to suggest otherwise.— Josh Earnest (@PressSec) February 10, 2015