Obama: Terrorism Fear Up Because It’s All People See From the ‘Media Pursuing Ratings’

In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep right before leaving for his Christmas vacation, President Barack Obama said Americans concern and rising fear over possible terrorism threats from ISIS is because “the media is pursuing ratings.”

Host Steve Inskeep asked, “What is the public missing about your strategy? And I say that simply because, according to polls, you don’t have very much approval for it.”

Obama answered, “Well, I think what’s fair is that post-Paris you had a saturation of news about the horrible attack there. And ISIL combines viciousness with very savvy media operations. And as a consequence, if you’ve been watching television for the last 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. And so I understand why people are concerned about it, and this is a serious situation, but what is important is for people to recognize that the power, the strength of the United States and its allies are not threatened by an organization like this; in the same way that al-Qaida was able to carry out one spectacular attack, we ended up making some significant changes to harden homeland defenses. It then took a while for us to ultimately snuff out core al-Qaida in the FATA, and there are still lingering remnants, but at no point was there ever a sense that in fact it could do catastrophic damage to us.”

Inskeep asked, “You referred to ISIL’s sophisticated media operation and also referred to what Americans are seeing in the American media. Are you suggesting that the media are being played in a sense here?”

Obama said, “Look, the media is pursuing ratings. This is a legitimate news story. I think that, you know, it’s up to the media to make a determination about how they want to cover things. There is no doubt that the actions of ISIL are designed to amplify their power and the threat that they pose. That helps them recruit, that adds in the twisted thoughts of some young person that they might want to have carry out an action, that somehow they’re part of a larger movement. And so I think that the American people absorb that, understandably are of concern. Now on our side, I think that there is a legitimate criticism of what I’ve been doing and our administration has been doing in the sense that 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. And so if people haven’t seen the fact that in fact 9,000 strikes have been carried out against ISIL, if they don’t know that towns like Sinjar that were controlled by ISIL have been taken back, or that a town like Tikrit, that was controlled by ISIL, now has been repopulated by previous residents, then they might feel as if there’s not enough of a response. And so part of our goal here is to make sure that people are informed about all the actions that we’re taking. But one of the interesting things that you’ve seen evolve over the last several weeks, including in the debates that are taking place between the Republican candidates, is that those who are critics of our administration response, or the military, the intelligence response that we are currently mounting, when you ask them, well, what would you do instead, they don’t have an answer. And the reason they don’t have an answer is because the truth is that the approach that we are taking is one that’s based on the best counsel and best advice of our top military, top intelligence, top diplomatic teams.”

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN


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