By James Hirsen, Special for USDR
There is apparently no love lost between Sony Pictures and the Obama administration these days.
The fingers of blame have been pointing back and forth, while the barbs between the studio and the president have continued to fly amid a bona fide national security crisis, which happens to have a real villain, North Korea.
During his year-end news conference, Pres. Obama chided Sony, joining in with countless critics of the movie studio’s decision to cancel the release of the film “The Interview,” which had been scheduled for a Christmas Day debut.
The president told assembled reporters that the studio had “made a mistake” by pulling the movie. He then indicated that if Sony had simply discussed things with him early on, he could have set them straight.
“I wish [Sony] had spoken to me first,” the president said. “I would have told them do not get into a pattern where you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”
Sony, however, seems to be questioning the veracity of the president’s statement at the press conference.
The CEO of Sony Pictures, Michael Lynton, has responded to Pres. Obama’s remarks. In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaraia, Lynton said, “We definitely spoke to a senior advisor in the White House to talk about the situation.”
“The White House was certainly aware of the situation,” Lynton insisted.
Sony had reportedly also sought consultation with the Obama administration’s State Department; this having apparently taken place prior to the occurrence of the November cyber-attack. The studio was seemingly seeking to determine whether the film’s comedic plotline, featuring two dubious journalists who are recruited to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, would pose any geopolitical problems.
According to Lynton, the White House had given Sony the green light to go forward with the release of the Seth Rogen-James Franco film.
“We were told there wasn’t a problem, so we continued to proceed,” Lynton said. “The US government told us there wasn’t a problem.”
In his last television interview of the year, which was conducted by CNN’s Candy Crowley, the president reiterated his assessment of Sony’s actions.
Ostensibly addressing Lynton’s claim of previous communications with the administration, Pres. Obama told Crowley that he had not received a telephone call from Sony that specifically sought advice on the decision to cancel the premiere of “The Interview.”
“Well, look, I was pretty sympathetic to the fact that they’ve got business considerations they’ve got to make,” the president said. “And, you know, had they talked to me directly about this decision, I might have called the movie theater chains and distributors and asked them what that story was.”
Sony’s position regarding future plans for the film appear to be evolving. When the studio first announced the movie’s cancellation, the statement that the company issued was clear and comprehensive: “Sony Pictures has no further release plans for the film.”
The media interpreted the statement as a wholesale shelving of “The Interview,” with the company appearing to have no plans for a future release, online or otherwise.
By means of the studio’s recently retained lawyer, David Boies, in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sony is now claiming that the decision was limited to the film’s theatrical release on December 25, and that the movie will be available in the future via the Internet or through use of another distribution method.
“Sony only delayed this,” Boies stated. “Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed. It will be distributed. How it’s going to be distributed, I don’t think anybody knows quite yet. But it’s going to be distributed.”
The tension that now appears to exist between the studio and the administration was made manifest when Boies cast a verbal barb concerning the administration’s response to the cyber-attack.
“This is not a Sony security problem,” Boies said. “This is a national security problem. And the government has got to lead.”
When “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked whether the president’s comments at his press conference were helpful, Boies responded with a rather revealing statement: “I think they were helpful in some respects.”
After acknowledging that it was useful to have the president publicly recognize that the hack was an unacceptable attack and that state-sponsored attacks designed to censor cannot be condoned, the Sony lawyer said, “I would have liked to have seen it a little earlier.”
Boies then directly addressed the president’s criticisms of Sony’s decision to pull the movie, saying, “I would have liked to have seen it [Obama’s remarks] without the sort of ‘blame the victim’ aspect of it.”