Earnest, Psaki Take to Twitter to Clarify Position on Terror Targeting of Jewish Store

Patrick Goodenough | February 10, 2015 | 6:44pm EST
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Israeli President Reuven Rivlin delivers a eulogy at the Jan. 13, 2015 funeral in Jerusalem of four Jews killed in a terror attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris. (AP Photo/Jim Hollander)

(CNSNews.com) – White House and State Department press secretaries took to Twitter Tuesday to underscore that the administration believes a terror attack on a kosher store in Paris last month was anti-Jewish, hours after both appeared reluctant during daily press briefings to acknowledge that.

The subject came up during the briefings after President Obama was quoted in an interview as referring to “vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”

A Muslim terrorist killed four Jews during the Jan. 9 siege at the kosher supermarket, which occurred two days after the attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. They were buried in Jerusalem several days later.

When White House press secretary Josh Earnest and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki were asked about the notion of a “random” attack, neither stated clearly that Jews had been targeted.

“It was clear from the terrorists – from the writings they put out afterwards – what the motivation was,” Earnest said. “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.”

Asked whether it was not the case that the victims had been targeted because of their religion, Earnest replied, “There were people other than just Jews who were in that deli.”

At the State Department, Psaki was asked, “Does the administration really believe that these people – that the victims of this attack were not singled out because they were of a particular faith?”

“As you know – I believe if I remember the victims specifically – they were not all victims of one background or one nationality,” she said.

Asked again whether the administration believed the attack targeted the Jewish community in Paris, Psaki replied, “I don’t think we’re going to speak on behalf of French authorities and what they believe was the situation –”

“But if a guy goes into a kosher market and starts shooting it up, you know, he’s not looking for Buddhists, is he?” pressed the Associated Press’ Matt Lee.

Noting that the store was clearly identified as being associated with a specific faith, Lee said, “I’m not sure I understand how it is that you can’t say that this was a, this was a targeted attack.”

“I just don’t have more for you Matt,” Psaki said. “This is an issue for the French government to address.”

The comments drew strong criticism on social media.

“The Israelis believe this admin underestimates the unique, genocidal dangers that Jews face. Today will... well, it won’t help,” tweeted Omri Ceren of The Israel Project.

“Jews are under assault around the world & the WH has made a conscious decision to deny the reality. Disgusting,” tweeted Daily Caller senior editor Jamie Weinstein.

“It is impossible to understand the lengths this administration goes to defend a blatant anti-Semitic terrorist attack in Paris,” Republican Jewish Committee executive director Matt Brooks said in a statement. “These statements by the president and his administration send the wrong message to both the Jewish community and the terrorists who are responsible for these heinous acts.”

Later Earnest and Psaki both used their Twitter feeds to clarify their positions.

“Our view has not changed,” Earnest tweeted. “Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism. POTUS didn’t intend to suggest otherwise.”

Psaki tweeted the same message, and in another tweet also said, “We have always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-semitic attack that took the lives of innocent people.”

Tuesday’s kerfuffle comes at a time when the administration is facing scrutiny over its chilly response to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s planned March 3 speech to Congress on the Iranian nuclear threat.

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