President Obama: Sony ‘Made a Mistake’ in Canceling ‘The Interview’

President says “I wish they had spoken to me first” before pulling the plug on the film

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 24: U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement following the announcement of the grand jury's decision in the shooting death of unnamed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The grand jury has decided that officer Darren Wilson will not be charged in the fatal shooting. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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President Barack Obama held a press conference on Friday, just hours after the Federal Bureau of Investigation named North Korea responsible for the hacking of and brutal threats against Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“I think they made a mistake,” Obama told the nation from the White House, referring to Sony’s actions in pulling “The Interview” in the face of the crippling cyberattack.

“Sony’s a corporation, it suffered significant damage, there were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced … having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake,” he confirmed at the previously scheduled year-end press conference before he headed off on his family vacation.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator in some place can start imposing censorship here in the U.S. If somebody can intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical comedy, imagine what they’ll do when they see a documentary or political film they don’t like?

“That’s not what we are, that’s not what America’s about. I’m sympathetic that some private company was worried about liabilities. I wish they’d spoken to me first. Do not get into a pattern in which we’re intimidated by these kind of criminal attacks,” he emphasized.

“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 Flacco,” the president went on to say, mispronouncing “The Interview” co-star James Franco‘s name.

“And I love James, but the notion that that was a threat to [North Korea], I think, gives you a sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about here. They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond; we will respond proportionally, and we will respond in a place and time that we choose.”

“We just confirmed that it was North Korea, we have been working up a range of options, they will be presented to me,” he announced later in the press conference. “I will make a decision on that based on what I believe is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime … It’s not something I will announce today at a press conference. Right now it’s the Wild West. This is part of the reason for Congress to work with us to get the bill passed.”

The president also detailed his plan moving forward following the attack on the studio, saying: “In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyberassaults both in the private sector and the public sector. Our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those types of assaults from taking place,” he said, adding that he set up a cybersecurity team to look at ways the government can help the private sector to prevent these types of attacks.

When asked if he would symbolically watch “The Interview,” Obama gave a coy response. “I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching. I never release my full movie list.”

As TheWrap previously reported, the FBI named North Korea responsible for the attacks carried out against Sony over the release of its controversial assassination comedy “The Interview,” which stars Rogen and Franco as two bumbling journalists tasked by the CIA with killing dictator Kim Jong-un. The studio had planned to release the film on Christmas Day, but shelved the film amid persistent threats and after multiple theater chains announced they wouldn’t run it.

“North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves,” the FBI said in its statement. “Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior.”

The formal indictment of North Korea came just after the hackers had issued another threat against Sony employees, which cautioned the studio against ever releasing the film or even leaving trailers up online. Several Sony employees received an email that appeared to come from the so-called “Guardians of Peace,” an individual with knowledge of the email told TheWrap.

Here is the message:

 “Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy.”
“we still have your private and sensitive data” and claims that they will “ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.”

“And we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.”

The message, part threat and part victory lap, came two days after Sony announced it would not release “The Interview” on Dec. 25 as planned.

“In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film ‘The Interview,’ we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release,” the studio said in a statement to TheWrap on Wednesday. “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”