×

Obama Calls Sony Hack ‘Cyber Vandalism,’ Not Act of War

President Barack Obama told CNN that North Korea’s hack attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment is an act of “cyber-vandalism,” not an act of war.

Despite the tens of millions of dollars in damage to the studio’s business operations and threats of violence, the president said he wished that Sony had not canceled the Christmas release of “The Interview.”

“If we set a precedent in which a dictator in another country can disrupt through cyber, a company’s distribution chain or its products, and as a consequence we start censoring ourselves, that’s a problem,” Obama said in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley on Sunday’s “State of the Union.”

North Korea was incensed that “The Interview” depicts a successful assassination attempt on its leader Kim Jong-un. In retaliation, it reportedly leaked internal Sony emails, salary details and film budgets, creating a firestorm of media coverage. In a message this week, hackers evoked the memory of 9/11 while threatening theaters that showed the film and moviegoers who bought tickets to the picture.

“The Boston Marathon suffered an actual grievous attack that killed and maimed a number of people and that next year we had as successful a Boston Marathon as we’ve ever had,” Obama said. “Sometimes this is a matter of setting a tone and being very clear that we’re not going to be intimidated by some cyber hackers.”

In his own CNN interview, Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton expressed disappointment with the president’s comments about the cancellation.

“We have not caved. We have not given in. We have persevered,” the studio chief told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, adding, “Let us be clear – the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it.”

Obama said he wished he had the opportunity to plead the case for releasing the film to exhibitors.

“I was pretty sympathetic to the fact that they have business considerations that they got to make,” the president said. “Had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what the story was.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content