The White House on Friday defended President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Business coalition aims to provide jobs to Afghan refugees MORE's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast after he was widely lambasted by conservatives for bringing up acts done in Christianity's name amid a discussion of modern-day terrorist threats.
Americans should hold themselves "up to our own values and our own standards," deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said aboard the president's flight to Indianapolis, where Obama is speaking at a community college, according to the pool report.
Obama believes that "when we fall short of that, we need to be honest with ourselves," Schultz said, noting Obama's "belief in American exceptionalism."
“The president believes that America is the greatest country on earth, not only because of our military or economic prowess or because we serve in a unique leadership role amongst the international community,” he added.
Conservatives widely panned Obama's remarks Thursday at the Washington Hilton, in which he referenced historical events to contextualize violence committed in the name of religion, most recently on the part of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
"Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," Obama said. "In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."
"Mr. President, the Crusades were 800 years ago and the Inquisition 500 years ago. What's happening right now is not Christians on the march, it is radical Islam," columnist Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News on Thursday, calling the remarks "astonishing."
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a potential 2016 presidential candidate, also criticized the speech, saying in a statement, "While Christians of today are taught to live their lives as the reflection of Christ's love, the radicals of ISIS use their holy texts as a rationale for violence."
"To insinuate modern Christians — the same Christian faith that led the abolitionist movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and global charitable efforts fighting disease and poverty — cannot stand up against the scourge we see in the Middle East is wrong," Santorum added.
Former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R-Va.) called the remarks "the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime," the former Republican National Committee chairman added that Obama "has offended every believing Christian in the United States."
Schultz said he had not spoken with the president about reaction to his remarks at the prayer breakfast.
"But I know that there is a failed presidential candidate and an RNC chairman from the past who have criticized us,” Schultz said. “But I don’t have a response to either of those two people.”