At his year-end news conference Friday President Obama said this about the Sony Corp. and its decision not to show its new movie, “The Interview:”
I wish they'd spoken to me first. I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you're intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.
The CEO of Sony, Michael Lynton replied:
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.
He added that the company consulted with the State Department, among others, about the risks.:
We were told there wasn’t a problem, so we continued to proceed. The U.S. government told us there wasn’t a problem.
Did Obama tell the truth?
In the most literal sense, he did. Sony did not speak directly and personally to the president.
And yet, Lynton did speak to a senior White House advisor and to the Obama State Department.
That means that President Obama was indulging in what Stephen Colbert has called truthiness. He did not lie, but he certainly did not tell the truth.
Barack Obama he is not just a single individual. He is the head of the executive branch of the American government. His administration, at very high levels knew what was going on. One of his senior officials was in direct contact with the CEO of Sony.
When you consult with a senior advisor of a president you assume, rightly that the person is acting in the name of the president and that your conversations are being reported back.
Obama the individual might not have spoken directly to Michael Lynton but his administration participated actively in the decision-making. That means that he himself, as leader of the government, was presumed to know what was going on and bears responsibility for the actions taken in his name.
Obama used truthiness to misrepresent his administration’s involvement and to deny his own presidential responsibility.