President Obama did not intend to indicate he saw the terrorist shooting at a kosher deli in Paris last month as random, White House press secretary Josh Earnest insisted Tuesday.
Instead, the president meant only to indicate that the victims of the attack had randomly ended up at the deli and had not been personally targeted, the spokesman said.
"I believe the point that the president was trying to make is that these individuals were not specifically targeted," Earnest said. "These were individuals who happened to randomly be in this deli and were shot while they were there. And that is the point that the president was making."
Critics of the administration have seized on Obama's remarks in a recent interview with Vox to suggest that Obama was downplaying the threat posed by Islamic extremists, or implying that the deli was not targeted because it was Jewish.
"It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris,” Obama said in the interview.
Earnest said it was clear from the writings put out by the terrorists in the aftermath "what their motivation was," indicating he agreed that the deli was targeted because it was Jewish, and there was no doubt that's why the location was selected.
But he also noted, "there were people other than just Jews who were in that deli."
"The adverb that the president chose was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in that terrible tragic incident were killed not because of who they were, but because of where they randomly happened to be," Earnest said.
One GOP congressional leadership aide said the administration is still dodging the crux of the issue.
"Refusing to admit that the Kosher deli in Paris was specifically targeted because it is a gathering place for Jews is just one reason why many people don’t trust the Obama administration when it comes to defending Israel," the aide said.