President Barack Obama today told a press gathering that he thought despite the damages Sony suffered in the hack attack, the company made the wrong decision in pulling the movie The Interview from release.
"Sony is a corporation, it suffered significant damage," he said in response to a question. "There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all of that, yes, I think they made a mistake."
Sony Pictures announced earlier this week that it would no longer be releasing The Interview, a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The decision was made in the wake of a hack attack that the FBI now says was carried out by North Korea. Those hackers also, citing 9/11, threatened an attack on American theaters showing the film.
In his press conference today, Obama said that he wished Sony officials had asked him for advice.
"I wish they had spoken to me first," he said. "I would have told them, 'Do not get into a pattern in which you are intimidated by these kind of criminal threats.'"
Obama said that attack, which he says North Korea carried out, did substantial damage and will be answered by the U.S.
"They caused a lot of damage and we will respond proportionally and in a place and time we choose," he said.
He later followed up to add that he will at some point be presented with a selection of responses and will determine the one most appropriate to what happened.
Obama also discussed the dangers of allowing state or private cyber assaults to prevent public discourse or freedom of speech.
"We can't have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States," he said. "Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks from releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they would do when they start seeing a documentary they don't like or news reports they don't like.
"Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don't want to offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.
"That's not who we are; that's not what America is about."
He added that the government is currently speaking with the film industry, news industry and other media about these sorts of issues. We've reached out to the Entertainment Software Association to see if they are a part of those talks.
To read why a movie has become such a flashpoint for North Korea and most likely led to an attack on Sony, check out my column on movies, video games and the alleged "soft war" against America's enemies.
Update: Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton responded to Obama's comments in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS this afternoon, saying, "I would be fibbing to say I wasn't disappointed."