Sony: We called White House

 

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton on Friday contradicted President Obama and said he had spoken with a senior White House official about the controversy surrounding “The Interview.”

“A few days ago, I personally did reach out and speak to senior folks in the White House and talked to them about this situation and actually informed them that we needed help,” Lynton said during an excerpt of an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, which airs in full Friday night on "Anderson Cooper 360."

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Obama at his year-end press conference on Friday said he wished someone from Sony had talked to him before the decision to cancel the theatrical release of “The Interview."

He told reporters that the company made a mistake and that he wishes Sony “had spoken to me first.”

“I would have told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these criminal attacks.’ ”

A White House official backed Obama's statement after the president's last press conference of the year.

“As the President said today, the White House was not consulted about Sony’s distribution decisions," the official said. "Per standard practice, and as was the case with Sony, the federal government and agencies communicate with private sector entities to bolster their cyber defenses on a regular basis.”

Lynton said in his interview that he didn’t directly speak to the president but that the “White House was certainly aware of this situation.” He added that the studio did not “cave” by pulling the release of the movie amidst terrorist threats and that there is a fundamental misunderstanding about Sony’s actions.   

“The movie theaters came to us, one by one, over a course of a very short period of time, we were completely surprised by it, and announced that they would not carry the movie,” he said.

“At that point in time, we had no alternative but to not proceed with the theatrical release on the 25th of December.”

The FBI said Friday that North Korea is responsible for the hack. Hackers have since threatened Sony to remove all clips of “The Interview” from the Internet to spare it from further attacks. The movie stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as journalists who travel to North Korea and assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

A number of politicians have bashed Sony for what they perceive as the company backing down to the cyber terrorists, after they warned of 9/11-style attacks on theaters that showed the film.  Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, said on Twitter that Sony should release the comedy for free online.

Lynton said that no major video-on-demand company has offered to help it release the movie and that Sony doesn’t have the capability to release it on its own. But despite a massive hack that leaked company data and threatened the release of a blockbuster, he said he has no regrets and would make the movie again.

“We have always had every desire to have the American public see this movie,” he said.

Sony Pictures said Friday afternoon in a statement that it is still looking for ways to release "The Interview" on a different platform outside of movie theaters.
 
"For more than three weeks, despite brutal intrusions into our company and our employees' personal data, we maintained our focus on one goal: getting the film The Interview released," the statement said. 
 
"Free expression should never be suppressed by threats and extortion."