White House Communications Director Jen Psaki would not admit that President Barack Obama views the Islamic State as an "existential threat" during an interview Tuesday with MSNBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart, following Obama's controversial remarks earlier that morning on NBC.
During his NBC interview that aired hours before his final State of the Union address, the president responded to NBC's Matt Lauer question of whether the "state of the union is strong" by saying, “We remain the strongest nation on earth by far, and there are no existential threats facing us.”
When Diaz-Balart asked Psaki during the MSNBC interview later that same day to confirm whether or not Obama truly believed that "there are no existential threats" facing the U.S., the conversation took a surprising turn, according to Mediaite.
“Let me follow up on what the president just said, there are no existential threats facing the United States. What about ISIS?” Diaz-Balart asked Psaki during the interview. “Republicans argue that ISIS does represent an existential threat.”
Psaki did not directly respond to Diaz-Balart's question.
"One thing the American people can expect tonight is the president is going to talk about how we have the greatest military in the world," Psaki said. "We’re going to go after ISIS, we are going to defeat them, we are going to destroy them. There is no question about that.”
Then Psaki used the opportunity to speak about her views concerning Republicans.
“If you listen to [some Republicans running for president], the country is headed toward doom and gloom, we’re headed toward really a negative future over the next five to 10 years. The president absolutely doesn’t believe that,” she said.
But Diaz-Balart would not let Psaki off the hook that easily. When he pressed Psaki once again and directly asked her whether or not the president believed that the Islamic State did not pose an "existential threat" to the U.S., Psaki still dodged giving a full answer and instead steered the conversation down another avenue.
"I think the president believes that American power, American leadership needs to be used to yes, fight terrorists, but also to take advantage of opportunities," Psaki said. "There are issues like climate change, like trade, that are really important for us to address as we lead the world globally."
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