Obama ignites social media by calling Paris kosher deli attack 'random'

“If a guy goes into a kosher market and starts shooting it up, he’s not looking for Buddhists, is he?” the reporter asked State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.

February 11, 2015 08:17
3 minute read.
US President Barack Obama's comment on the Paris kosher market attack raised eyebrows

US President Barack Obama's comment on the Paris kosher market attack raised eyebrows on social media. (photo credit: REUTERS)

US President Barack Obama came under attack this week, particularly in the news and on social media circles, after he appeared to have avoided characterizing as anti-Semitic the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris last month in which the only four victims killed were Jewish.

Questions first percolated after an Obama press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday. But it was his comment in an interview that he gave to Vox on Tuesday in which he said the attack was "random" that drew the most criticism.

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"It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concern when you have a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shot a bunch of folks in a Deli in Paris."

Television star Joshua Malina, best known for his roles on the hit shows Scandal and The West Wing, set out the following tweets.

Bill Kristol, an American neoconservative who edits the political magazine the Weekly Standard tweeted.

Jerusalem Post Managing Editor David Brinn also had something to say.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded on Tuesday by saying that the targets within the grocery store were "killed not because of who they were, but because of where they randomly happened to be.”

A reporter pressed Earnest on his statement with regard to the incident. “They weren’t killed because they were in a Jewish deli though?”

“These individuals were not targeted by name, this is the point,” Earnest said.

“Not by name, but by religion, were they not?” the reporter responded.

The White House’s response prompted some to question whether the administration believed the targeting of the shop itself was random.

Following up on the confusion on Tuesday, an AP reporter pressed State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki whether the administration believes Amedy Coulibaly, the perpetrator of the attack, had targeted Jewish shoppers.

“If a guy goes into a kosher market and starts shooting it up, you don’t – he’s not looking for Buddhists, is he?” the reporter asked.

"I don't think we're going to speak on behalf of French authorities," Psaki responded. "Its an issue for the French government to address."

US officials, in fact, declared the attack "cowardly and anti-Semitic" shortly after the January 9 shooting, speaking to The Jerusalem Post two days after the attack.

"We condemn in the strongest terms yesterday's cowardly anti-Semitic assault against the innocent people in the kosher supermarket," said  Chanan Weissman, a spokesman for the State Department.

"France's historic Jewish community has too often in the recent past been the target of extremist violence," Weissman continued. "We commend President Hollande and the French government's firm response to the terror attacks and the tragic loss of life this past week."  

Later on Tuesday, Psaki tweeted out confirmation of the State Department's position on the matter.

"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," she said.

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