President Obama: Sony Made a ‘Mistake’ In Pulling ‘The Interview’

Barack Obama Sony Hack The Interview
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Obama on Friday said that Sony Pictures Entertainment “made a mistake” in pulling the movie “The Interview.” The president spoke just hours after the FBI announced that North Korea was responsible for the cyber-attack on the studio.

“Yes, I think they made a mistake,” he said at a press conference, in response to a question about whether he agreed with Sony’s decision. He cited what the effect could be on distribution of other types of films, like documentaries, that certain foreign regimes don’t like.

“We can not have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship in the United States,  because if somebody is able to intimidate us out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing once they see a documentary that they don’t like or news reports that they don’t like,” Obama said. “That’s now who we are. That’s not what America is about.” His opinion on Sony’s decision to pull the movie was in line with a number of industry voices who wondered if it set a bad precedent.

He added, “We cannot start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there may be a possibility of a terrorist attack.” He cited the case of the running of the Boston Marathon this year after a terrorist attack a year earlier.

“I wish they had spoken to me first,” Obama said, referring to Sony. “I would have told them do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”

The FBI announced on Friday that it has concluded that North Korea was behind the attack on SPE’s computer systems. The bureau cited malware linked to “other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed.”

A key question is what kind of response, if any, the U.S. government will take. MPAA chairman Chris Dodd called the cyber-attack a “despicable, criminal act” that was the work of cyber-terrorists.

Obama said that the U.S. would “respond, and respond proportionately…in a place and at a time of our choosing,” but he declined to go into details. He said that the U.S. had “no indication” that another country, such as China, was also involved.

“We just confirmed that it was North Korea. We have been considering a range of options which will be presented to me,” adding that he would make his decision based on what he perceives as what is a “proportional” response.

Obama said that it “says something about North Korea” that they would launch an attack on Sony over a “satirical movie starring Seth Rogen.” He also mentioned James Franco, albeit mispronouncing his name as “James Flacco.” “I love Seth and I love James,” he said.

He called for measures to improve cyber-security, noting that such attacks would threaten “not just a movie studio but the economy.”

He said that he has a “long list of movies I am going to be watching,” in response to a question about whether he will watch the movie.

That Obama came out so directly against Sony’s decision to pull “The Interview” is somewhat of a surprise, but he indicated that he was concerned over future responses in the private sector to such threats. Obama has longtime ties to Michael Lynton, the chairman of SPE, as Lynton raised money for his presidential bid and for his 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate. Obama appeared on the Sony lot in 2011 for an early reelection fundraiser on a studio soundstage.

The FBI’s announcement that North Korea was responsible for the cyber attack drew a strong reaction from Secretary of State John Kerry, who issued a statement saying, “These lawless acts of intimidation demonstrate North Korea’s flagrant disregard for international norms. Threats in cyberspace pose one of the greatest national security challenges to the United States, and North Korea’s actions – intended to inflict significant economic damage and suppress free speech – are well beyond the bounds of acceptable state behavior in cyberspace.”





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  1. Carolynn Grant says:

    That’s the America I know

  2. royce says:

    How do I know that America didnt orchestrate the whole thing to draw north Korea into a quagmire that it cannot extract itself from? From the lips of our own generals our military can start a war anywhere , blame it on the other side AND kick their @ss.

  3. yar says:

    so can we talk about Japan’s role in all this now? they didn’t go for nbc or paramount, who have a history of making fun of hissss leigggggeeee. they went for sony when japan has a hostage release situation on their hands. let’s be real as f*** about this. thanks.

  4. MarkS says:

    I have to wonder who the Republicans and displeased commenters here are going to blame for everything wrong with the world and their personal lives once Obama has finished his term in office.

    As far as Sony goes; I think they should go ahead and release the film as soon as possible and forget what people may think of them which is what got them into this mess in the first place. Does Sony really believe that by not releasing this film will “save lives” and “make things safer”? If so, then they are under the belief that North Korea is a stand up country who holds by their word and are putting their trust in them and not in the U.S.. It’s understandable that Sony would have gotten shaken up when the threat was first made, but they didn’t give themselves enough time to think things through and consult with perhaps Homeland Security, DOD, and even President Obama. Instead, they made a hasty decision, however there’s nothing shameful about them proceeding with the release of the film in the near future and I wouldn’t think any less of them. We all have made decisions that weren’t in our best interest in life and Sony is no different and as long as we are alive we have the opportunity to correct most of them.

  5. Julienne says:

    Obama’s a day late and a dollar short. YOU should’ve said something BEFORE they pulled the picture. AGAIN… leading from behind.

    YOUR job is to protect US citizens. DO YOUR FREAKING JOB!

  6. jennifer says:

    M President…with all due respect it seriously bothers me that you think Sony should have consulted you before they made their decision. Could you guarantee that all the folks whose information was hacked and whose life’s could have been put a risk, would be safe if the movie was released? It is easy for you to tell folks not to be intimidated when you and your family have security guards protecting your every move and those that you love. I am proud that Sony choose the live’s of their employees over making millions. We have many other avenues to advocate for freedom of speech. And perhaps our words to others should not be satirical..but rather words that invoke thoughtful solutions that bring more harmony to this planet.

    • Gump Chun says:

      That is the most rank and grotesque betrayal of your families, your company and your country that I can imagine you could concoct and try to sell. I don’t teach my family to be cowards in the face of threats of dictators, trolls, or hackers, I teach them what the founding fathers valued and how our troops show bravery and so should we.

      And I don’t censor, avoid or throw under the bus artists willing to take on controversial subjects with humor, as Charlie Chaplin did when he spoofed Adolph Hitler in the Great Dictator. Imagine if that has been suppressed when the German government complained, as they did.

      Sorry, Obama is 100% right, and Sony is 100% WRONG. You can couch it in all the self-serving, bogus, transparently fear-based spin you want. We all need to stand up to this. And I intend to go to the theater the second it hits the screens, as it must if Sony is to salvage a shred of its reputation in America and the world.

      And I don’t need to shamefully sneer at the President’s security detail; I will take my kids as an object lesson, so they won’t grow up to behave like yours surely will.

  7. Alex says:

    Sony made a mistake giving Barry money, I’m looking forward to seeing him it town again (while I’m sitting in traffic) for the next fund raiser. I wonder if Clooney still considers him a bud? My guess is yup.

  8. Gump Chun says:

    Sony needs to see that this film MUST be released now. They will be justifiably be vilified if they continue this cowardly course of capitulation to the worst regime on planet earth, North Korea. And I include the spines-of-jello theater owners turning tail in this as well. Everybody needs to show some character.

    Our troops man up and take on terrorists and evil regimes bravely every day. It is not often we at the home front are called on to show similar courage. This is one of those times. Let’s not let the troops and the founding fathers down by kowtowing to dictators. Sony needs to stop and show some courage and democratic values.

    The film will be a huge hit at this point, trust me.

  9. Sam says:

    If Sony had gone to Obama he would have done nothing because he would have been seen as helping the Hollywood elite. A Republican president would have done something because the don’t bully down and if nothing else to make inroads in Hoolywood which hates Republicans.

    • Gump Chun says:

      Just about the silliest right wing fairy tale I have heard today. File that with your Kenyan Obama borth certificates.

      Obama would have said what he said today: don’t let fear stop anything you do, and we will back you up. America is threatened by kooks 5000 times a day. We should not stop doing anything because of them.

      Obama nailed it.

  10. srvwp2013 says:

    The country made a mistake in electing Barack and then a bigger mistake in re-electing Barack. We have been fooled by this old fooler for far too long. Obviously the American Government has not made any progress in connecting dots. This “attack” by the back-ward stone-age North Koreans proves that we are no more ready for “the future” than we were on 9/11.

    • Gump Chun says:

      The country saved itself by throwing out the Republicans who destroyed us in almost every way in only eight years and electing Obama twice.

      America today in 1000x better than it was the day the GOP and Bush left it. Thanks entirely to Obama and Democrats.

      The government is more than capable of figuring out who did this — it was the Obama administration who IDed North Korea — and will take strong action just as when they crippled the Iranian nuke centrifuges. They just won’t be blaring it out on TV to satisfy whiners.

      • Gump Chun says:

        The country was losing 750,00 jobs a month the day Obama took office, today it is adding 300,000 a month. That is a lioon to the good for Obama. And we are doing better than virtually every country in the world, thanks to Obama and the Democrats. And your insurance story is bunk. Everybody can buy it affordably now, and not fear losing it or having illnesses excluded.

        The Republicans, the Torture and Total Recession and Unemployment Party, are worse threats to America than a pipsqueak like Kim Jong Eun.

      • Julienne says:

        Dude…back away from the heroine needle with your hands in the air. ARE YOU HIGH? Our country’s in shambles. Every promise…..became every lie were now living with. I lost my insurance because of this freak.

  11. Kyra Munger says:

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  12. Joyce Tyler says:

    Sony Japan’s mistake was in suggesting to Sony Pictures that the movie actually name the dictator Kim Jung Un and the country North Korea. Apparently the original script used made up names. None of this would have happened had Sony Pictures’ parent company stuck to making TVs and whatever.

    • LApseud says:

      I saw this film and sat through a Q&A with Rogen/Goldberg afterwards and I believe they said they always used real names.

  13. Lola says:

    Obama actually had an excellent idea. Seth Roth and James Flacco releasing a comedy about the assassination attempt of Kim Jo-Huh to avoid suspicion.

  14. Joyce Tyler says:

    This is ridiculous in so many ways. Perhaps the president needs to be reminded that the whole Benghazi massacre began with a crappy docudrama that depicted a Muslim religious icon in a disrespectful manner. And even if N. Korean terrorists didn’t make good on their threats, we have plenty of homegrown whackos, who might have seen this as a good opportunity to murder a few hundred innocent people.

    • Gump Chun says:

      Joyce, none of that is a reason to curtail free speech and stop this release. Thus was about crude, rank and grotesque criminal extortion and intimidation by a crackpot and vicious regime. The day America needs to pay attention to any such threats is the day we hang up the keys on a free and independent nation.

      You need to think much bigger than the small stuff.

  15. Jen says:

    Sony needs to sell the rights to the movie to Google…and watch it go viral!!!

  16. Greg Samsa says:

    Sony do the right thing and release this movie or sell it to someone who will.

  17. Jim says:





  18. Laszlo Zoltan says:

    clearly, like an unruly child’s tantrum, north korea is too used to getting it’s own way with it’s own people- the west has the right to properly discipline the errant child. perhaps a covert assassination of it’s leadership is due- (just putting it out there….)

  19. Normally, I can’t agree with this President on the time of day, but on this I do. Sony never should’ve caved to this. Simply sets a precedent that we will see repeated.

  20. oliver Sledge born in America says:

    We have a responsibility to keep our country free, we as a nation must never bow to any dictators. We must not yield because in the long run weakness will come to bite us, if we let this happen.? What next will we allow. ?????? A crime has been committed on us all

  21. Mark says:

    Now that the DPRK is gloating over their control of Sony, maybe it is time for some of those consequences everybody is always talking about.

  22. Jeffsd says:

    It is not Obama who would be sued in our out of control legal system if a terrorist actually made good on its threats. The survivors would surely sue Sony with our nations blessing.
    Unless Obama is willing to go to war with trial lawyers in this country then he should stop talking about things he knows nothing about.

    • Zoey says:

      I agree with you. You can’t expect a business to singlehandedly take on terrorists (cyber or otherwise), from another country. That responsibility falls on our government. But I seriously doubt that they’ll take any course of action that will be to our satisfaction.

      • Zoey says:

        Gump Chun:

        You’re nothing but a bully. On second thought, you also remind me of a broken record. I’ve read your replies to others and you just keep reiterating the same points over and over. Maybe what you should repeat to yourself is this: my opinions are not facts, and other people have a right to disagree with me. It is a free country after all. (Or have you changed your mind about that?)

      • Gump Chun says:

        Releasing a movie is not exactly taking on the terrorists, it is standing up quietly and calmly for freedom and free speech. Your pathetic excuses could be used by any business anywhere to justify pulling anti-Russian, anti-Republican, anti-Israeli, anti-Catholic documentaries, comedies books etc. And business insurance can cover terrorist attacks, however vanishingly unlikely.

        The founding fathers would weep to read such asinine self-deception and rank cowardice when it comes to freedoms they died to enshrine and pass down to us. Nice to see you aren’t passing it down to your kids. The rest of us will.

  23. deangirl1 says:

    Sony was and is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Of course, no one should dictate free speech, but if Sony went ahead and there was a terrorist attack and people were killed, they’d be condemned for that too.

    • Glenn C. says:

      There would have been NO terrorist attack! My GOD! So many out there like you SO scared! So much overreaction! They are laughing right now. They are high fiving each other! Sony should not have pulled it! Period. Now there will be more!!!!

      • Zoey says:

        People like you act as if you’re capable of predicting the future. Have you forgotten that moviegoers were gunned down while watching ‘The Dark Knight Rises’? It’s so easy to tell everyone else to be brave, but what if it was your family or friends who were injured or lost their lives to such a senseless attack? There are some things worth dying for, but watching a movie is not one of them.

  24. John Shea says:

    ALLELUIA! You might have spoken a little earlier and louder, Mr. President, but thank you anyway! Now please hold a Presidential Premiere for ‘The Interview’ in the White House.

  25. Carly Santana (@VillaBlancUH) says:

    editors need editors too (or at least a proof reader)!

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