President Barack Obama wasn’t downplaying the anti-Semitic nature of last month’s Paris kosher grocery store siege when he said in a recent interview the victims of that attack were shot “randomly,” the White House clarified on Tuesday.
Earlier the day, the White House stood by Obama’s phraseology, saying the President meant the shoppers gunned down on Jan. 9 in Paris weren’t individually targeted by the culprit, Amedy Coulibaly.
But later on Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest tweeted the administration’s view – expressed many times in the attack’s aftermath – was that it was “motivated by anti-Semitism.”
Obama “didn’t intend to suggest otherwise,” Earnest wrote.
In an interview with Vox, conducted in late January but published on Monday, Obama was defending his record on terror when he mentioned the Paris attacks.
“Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people,” Obama said. “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.”
Conservatives pounced, lumping the remarks into what they claim is Obama’s muddied approach to Israel.
“Refusing to admit that the Kosher deli in Paris was specifically targeted because it is a gathering place for Jews is just one reason why many people don’t trust the Obama administration when it comes to defending Israel,” a GOP leadership aide said.
Members of Obama’s administration have said previously the store attacked in Paris wasn’t chosen randomly, but was targeted because it served a Jewish clientele.
Denis McDonough, Obama’s chief of staff, called the attack “the latest in a series of very troubling incidents in Europe and around the world that reflect a rising tide of anti-Semitism.”
But when Earnest was questioned about Obama’s use of the word “random” on Tuesday, he wouldn’t say specifically the attack was anti-Jewish in nature
“I believe the point that the President was trying to make is that these individuals were not specifically targeted,” Earnest told CNN’s Jim Acosta. “These were individuals who happened to randomly be in this deli and were shot while they were there. And that is the point that the president was making.”
Earnest added later, “There were people other than just Jews who were in that deli.”