No less than three members of the White House press corps challenged press secretary Josh Earnest on President Obama’s comments that the Paris shooters “randomly [shot] a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” (RELATED: Obama Claims Paris Shooters ‘Randomly’ Shot Up Kosher Deli)
CNN’s Jim Acosta pressed Earnest on the question first:
ACOSTA: In that interview with Vox, that the president had, it was put out yesterday. There was one comment that raised some eyebrows and I want to ask you about; I’m sure you’re aware of it, you may have a response to it. But the president said at one point, ‘my first job is to protect the American people. 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.’
Just to be clear though, that shooting at that deli in Paris was not random, correct? Did the president misspeak there?
EARNEST: Jim, I believe the point the president was trying to make was that these individuals were not specifically targeted. They were random people that happened to randomly be in the deli and were shot.
ACOSTA: The people who randomly shot them –
EARNEST: If you want to question the president’s placement of an adverb in the sentence, the adverb in this case being ‘randomly,’ you can. But that’s the case the president’s trying to make.
But ABC News’ Jon Karl returned to the question a minute later.
KARL: Well, back to the question Jim was asking about his description of the shooting at the kosher deli in Paris as being a bunch of – ‘randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.’ I mean, this was not a random shooting of a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. This was an attack in a kosher deli. Does the president have any doubt those terrorists attacked that deli because there would be Jews in that deli?
EARNEST: Jon, it is clear from the terrorists, from some of the writings 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: They weren’t killed because they were in a Jewish deli, though? A kosher deli?
EARNEST: These individuals were not targeted by name. This is the point.
KARL: Not by name but religion, were they not?
EARNEST: Well, Jon, there were people other than just Jews who were in that deli.
KARL: Is there any doubt that that deli was attacked because it was a kosher deli?
EARNEST: No, Jon. I answered the question once.
From there, Earnest threw to Fox News’ Ed Henry, who immediately pressed him further.
HENRY: Well then, why didn’t the president acknowledge that? If he knows that and it’s obvious, why didn’t he say that?
EARNEST: The president has acknowledged it on many occasions when he had opportunity to speak about this incident.
HENRY: But he didn’t there.