Obama: Media stoking ISIS fears

President Obama said in an interview broadcast early Monday that he understands why Americans are worried about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), adding that it is important “to keep things in perspective.”

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“This is not an organization that can destroy the United States,” he told NPR. “This is not a huge industrial power that can pose great risks to us institutionally or in a systematic way. But they can hurt us, and they can hurt our people and our families.”

Obama blamed the media in part for fears, saying that in the past month “all you have been seeing, all you have been hearing about is these guys with masks or black flags who are potentially coming to get you."

“The media is pursuing ratings, this is a legitimate news story. I think it’s up to the media how they want to cover this. There is no doubt the actions of ISIL are designed to amplify their power and the threat that they pose,” he added, using the administration’s preferred acronym for the terrorist group.

Obama acknowledged "a legitimate criticism" about how he and his administration have gone about its attempts to allay fears among the public following recent terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

"We haven't, you know, on a regular basis, I think described all the work that we've been doing for more than a year now to defeat ISIL," Obama told NPR.

The White House has since sought to step up its messaging on its anti-ISIS efforts after an onslaught of criticism following the Obama's initial response, with the president speaking out last week after trips to the Pentagon and National Counterterrorism Center.

Obama cautioned that Americans should not start “changing how we live and what our values are” in response to the threat from the terror group.

“Part of my message over the next 14 months or 13 months that I am — remain in office is to just make sure that we remember who we are and make sure that our resilience, our values, our unity are maintained. If we do that then ISIL will be defeated."

--This report was updated at 7:58 a.m.

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