Obama: "Mistake" by Sony to scrap film release

Dec 19, 2014 2:59 PM by CBS News

Sony Pictures "made a mistake" when it decided to cancel the theatrical release of "The Interview" in the wake of cyber attacks from North Korea, President Obama said Friday.

"Sony's a corporation, it suffered significant damage, there were threats against its employees --

I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced," Mr. Obama said in a news conference at the White House. "Having said all that -- yes, I think they made a mistake."

The FBI on Friday formally blamed the North Korean government for the retaliatory cyber attacks against Sony. In the satirical movie "The Interview," a pair of American journalists are sent to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Ultimately, the threat of additional cyber attacks scuttled "The Interview's" planned Christmas Day release.

Responding to Sony's decision, Mr. Obama said, "That's not who we are. That's not what America's about."

"We cannot have a society in which some dictator some place can start imposing censorship here in the United States," the president continued. "Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they do when they start seeing a documentary they don't like, or news reports they don't like. Or even worse, imagine if producers or distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don't want to offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended."

While the president said he's sympathetic that Sony is a private company, he said, "I wish they had spoken to me first."

"I would've told them: do not get into a pattern in which you're intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks."

The company shouldn't have been deterred from releasing its movie, he said, "any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack, any more than Boston didn't run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm."

Mr. Obama acknowledged that the cyber attacks "caused a lot of damage."

That said, he added, "It says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen... and James Franco. I love Seth. And I love James. But the notion that that was a threat to them, I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we're talking about here."

Asked whether he would take a symbolic gesture like watching the movie himself, Mr. Obama said, "I've got a long list of movies I'm going to be watching. You know, I never release my full movie list."

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