The Obama administration once condemned French magazine Charlie Hebdo after it published cartoons satirizing Islam in 2012.
"Well, we are aware that a French magazine published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the Prophet Muhammad, and obviously, we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this. We know that these images will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory," then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press pool
After denouncing Charlie Hebdo, Carney hedged, noting the importance of free speech.
"But we've spoken repeatedly about the importance of upholding the freedom of expression that is enshrined in our Constitution. In other words, we don’t question the right of something like this to be published; we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it."
A year prior to Carney's comments, Charlie Hebdo's offices had been firebombed in the fall of 2011, "after it published a spoof issue 'guest edited' by the Prophet Muhammad," The New York Times reported
. The magazine and its editors had long been under the gun of jihadists, having earned the ire of al-Qaida in 2006 for re-printing political cartoons by Danish artist Kurt Westergaard that satirized Islam.
After the bombing — which destroyed property but did not result in any deaths — the publication got back to business, publishing its regular style of cartoons, which lampooned many major religions, politicians, the military, and more.
That eventually led to the 2012 controversy, which earned the denunciation by the White House and prompted the French government to temporarily close their embassies and schools in several Muslim countries.
This week, more than three years after the firebombing, Charlie Hebdo's offices were attacked again by jihadists, resulting in 12 deaths, including the death of a police officer assigned to protect the threatened editors.
In its initial statement in response to the terrorist attack, the White House condemned the attacks, but did not make any judgment calls on the content of the magazine, as it had done in the past. As Reason.com pointed out
, it also didn't mention free speech.
"I strongly condemn the horrific shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that has reportedly killed 12 people," President Barack Obama said in a prepared statement
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrorist attack and the people of France at this difficult time. France is America’s oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world. Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended. France, and the great city of Paris where this outrageous attack took place, offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers. We are in touch with French officials and I have directed my Administration to provide any assistance needed to help bring these terrorists to justice."
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