State Department spokesman Jen Psaki on Tuesday refused to admit that last month's attack at a kosher deli in Paris was probably the work of a terrorist who was targeting Jews.
Psaki was asked about the attack after President Barack Obama described the attack as one that resulted in the death of "a bunch of folks" who were shot "randomly." That comment led to charges that Obama was trying to downplay the idea that the attacker was targeting Jews.
It also prompted AP reporter Matt Lee to ask Psaki on Tuesday, "Does the administration really believe that the victims of this attack were not singled out because they were of a particular faith?"
Psaki seemed to back up Obama's comment by arguing that people of all faiths and background were in the deli at the time, an indication she believes the attacker probably was not targeting only Jews.
"If I remember the victims specifically, there were not all victims of one background or one nationality, so I think what they mean by that is, I don't know that they spoke to the targeting of the grocery store or that specifically, but the individuals who were impacted," she said. The attack resulted in the death of four victims, all of them Jewish.
She was asked again if the decision to target the deli was an attempt to generally target Jews. "I don't have any more to really…" she said before being interrupted again on whether the State Department thinks the attack was anti-Jewish.
"I don't think we're going to speak on behalf of French authorities and what they believe was the situation," she said.
"But if a guy goes into a Kosher market and starts shooting it up, he's not looking for Buddhists, is he?" Lee asked.
"I just don't have more for you," Psaki replied. "It's an issue for the French government to address."
Psaki later seemed to give in with this tweet:
We have always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-semitic attack that took the lives of innocent people.— Jen Psaki (@statedeptspox) February 10, 2015
White House spokesman Josh Earnest made similar comments on Tuesday, but said Obama's use of the word "randomly" was only meant to reflect the different backgrounds of the people in the deli.