President Obama, as Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces, still questions the judgement of French satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo for their decision to publish cartoons mocking Muhammed, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Monday.
"This president, as the commander in chief, believes strongly in the responsibility that he has to advocate for our men and women in uniform, particularly if it is going to make them safer," Earnest said in response to a question about whether or not the White House stands by a 2012 statement that questioned the judgement of Hedbo's cartoons.
"Let me say a couple things about that," Earnest began before launching into a lengthy justification for the White House's position. "The first is that this is something I don't want to be overlooked. What my predecessor also said, in the context of those very same comments, was that the publication of that material did not in anyway justify an act of violence."
"At the same time," Earnest continued, "it would not be the first time that there has been a discussion in this country about the kinds of responsibilities that go along with exercising the right to freedom of speech. And in this scenario, or in the circumstances in which my predecessor was talking about this issue, there was a genuine concern that the publication of some of those materials could put Americans abroad at risk, including American soldiers. And that is something that the commander in chief takes very seriously. And the president and his spokesman, was not then and will not now, be shy about expressing a view or taking the steps that are necessary to try to advocate for the safety and security of our men and women in uniform."
When Earnest's predecessor, former-White House press secretary Jay Carney, first questioned Hedbo's judgement, he did so in the immediate wake of the September 2012 attack on U.S. assets in Benghazi, an attack the White House to this day still blames on a YouTube video.
"We are aware that a French magazine published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the Prophet Muhammad," Carney said during the September 19, 2012 press briefing, "and obviously, we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this."
"In other words," Carney continued, "we don’t question the right of something like this to be published; we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it. And I think that that’s our view about the video that was produced in this country and has caused so much offense in the Muslim world."
During the same press briefing, Earnest also acknowledged that it was a mistake for the White House not to send "a higher profile" administration official to a unity fall in France Sunday.
Earnest said both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden stayed at home Sunday but declined to say what either of them were doing that day that would have prevented them from going to France.