The White House came under fire over the weekend for seemingly censoring the phrase “Islamist terrorism” uttered by French President Francois Hollande when he spoke during a meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday.
However, administration officials insisted the omission was the result of a technical glitch.
At a bilateral meeting Thursday on the sidelines of a Washington summit on global nuclear threats, the two leaders discussed the nations’ partnership on security issues, the fight against terrorism and challenges in the Middle East.
In brief statements to the media the two reaffirmed their determination to fight together against the Islamic State group and to work for political stability in Iraq, Syria and Libya.
A White House transcript of Hollande’s comments showed him saying that “we’re also well aware that the roots of terrorism, Islamist terrorism [emphasis added], is in Syria and in Iraq. We therefore have to act both in Syria and in Iraq, and this is what we’re doing within the framework of the coalition.
“And we note that Daesh (Islamic State) is losing ground thanks to the strikes we’ve been able to launch with the coalition.”
A White House video of Hollande’s comments featured a translator, whose audio was abruptly cut just after the words “roots of terrorism,” resuming only to “note that Daesh is losing ground.”
A corrected video was later posted online by the White House, with a note that “A technical issue with the audio during the recording of President Hollande’s remarks led to a brief drop in the audio recording of the English interpretation. As soon as this was brought to our attention, we posted an updated video online…with the complete audio, which is consistent with the written transcript we released yesterday.”
However, the dropping of that particular phrase — Islamist terrorism — was pounced upon by critics of Obama, who have lambasted his reluctance to use the phrase and saw Thursday’s incident as intentional censorship as a continuation of that policy.
Obama has indicated in the past that he refrains from using the words “Islamic terror” in describing Middle East extremism as he does not wish peaceful Muslims to receive the impression that the US war on terrorism is a war against Islam as a whole, or lend legitimacy to terrorists’ assertion that they represent Islam.
This policy has been criticized by various parties, including Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has on various occasions during his campaign criticized “a president who…will not even use the words radical Islamic terrorism.”
The conservative Media Research Center was first to report the alleged censorship, stating that “The White House website has censored a video of French Pres. Francois Hollande saying that ‘Islamist terrorism’ is at the ‘roots of terrorism.’”
A White House official told the NY Post that “nothing was edited out,” citing the aforementioned technical issue and noting that the transcript issued by the White House had not omitted the phrase.
AFP contributed to this report.