President Obama’s absence at Sunday’s Unity Rally in Paris had many scratching their head wondering what he did instead, including his own press secretary.
“I haven’t spoken to the president about what he did yesterday,” Josh Earnest told Fox News’s Ed Henry during Monday’s briefing. “I guess I prepared for a lot of questions today, but I did not prepare for a question based on what the president was actually doing yesterday.”
Earnest explained that the president’s attendance at the outdoor march proved too difficult to coordinate on less than 36 hours notice, given security protocols. Additionally, the White House worried that security measures would have impacted other participants’ ability to take a part in the rally.
Henry pushed back, saying that dozens of other world leaders adequately addressed those concerns and attended the rally on short notice, such as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He went on to compare the sudden event to South African president Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2013, which President Obama attended. Unlike Mandela’s funeral, which officials had already planned for years in advance in the event of his passing, the Paris march quickly came together, Earnest said. As a result of the president’s “more onerous” security compared to that of other world leaders, the sudden turnaround was too difficult.
Ultimately, Earnest reiterated that the administration should have sent a more “high-profile” official to the rally, including potentially Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris for an anti-terrorism summit. Before moving on from Henry, Earnest emphasized that the administration continues to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the French in the aftermath of last week’s attacks.