President Barack Obama criticized Sony Pictures Friday for pulling a movie out of theaters in response to a hack attack U.S. officials blame on North Korea, saying it sets a bad precedent and could encourage further censorship.
Mr. Obama, speaking at his final news conference of the year, said he was sympathetic to the problem Sony faced but said, ?Yes, I think they made a mistake.?
He also said the U.S. would hit back at North Korea, but declined to say how or when.
?They caused a lot of damage and we will respond. We will respond proportionately and we will respond in a place and time and manner we choose,? the president said.
The president?s comments came hours after the Federal Bureau of Investigation said evidence points to the North Korean government as the culprit behind a hack that exposed internal Sony emails and made threats against theaters that offered the film ?The Interview,? a dark comedy about a plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
?We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States, because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary they don?t like, or news reports they don?t like,? Mr. Obama said.
Sony executives didn?t immediately respond to requests for comment.
While the president had little to say about what measures he might take in response, he spoke expansively about why he thought Sony was wrong to give in to the demands.
?Imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don?t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended,?? he said. ?That?s not who we are, that?s not what America?s about.?
On a more personal note, Mr. Obama said of Sony, ?I wish they?d spoken to me first. I would have told them, ?Do not get into a pattern in which you?re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.? ?
Companies in the U.S., the president said, are going to have to come to terms with the possibility of having their computer systems penetrated, but ?we can?t start changing our patterns of behavior.??
To do so, he said, would be like canceling the Boston Marathon because bombs were detonated there last year, or staying away from a football game because someone had made a threat.
?Let?s not get into that way of doing business,? he said.
He also took a shot more directly at the North Korean leader.
?I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco,? he said, as reporters laughed. ?I love Seth, and I love James, but the notion that (the movie was a threat to North Korea), I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we?re talking about here.?
Beyond Sony, Mr. Obama also talked about the strength of the American economy, American leadership at home and abroad and vowed to work with Republicans in Congress over the next two years.
Mr. Obama called 2014 ?a breakthrough year? and said that America was on the rebound at home and abroad.
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