Where was Obama during Charlie Hebdo solidarity march?

  • Reuters, Washington
  • Updated: Jan 12, 2015 18:01 IST

The absence of President Barack Obama or any top members of his administration from a huge march in Paris on Sunday to honour victims of Islamist militant attacks raised eyebrows among some in the US media.

French President Francois Hollande and some 44 foreign dignitaries, including leaders from Germany, Italy, Britain, Turkey, Israel and the Palestinian territories, headed more than a million people in what commentators said was the largest crowd in Paris since its liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944.

Islamist militants killed 17 people, including journalists and police, in three days of attacks in the French capital last week.

The United States was represented at Sunday's march by its ambassador to France, Jane Hartley. But commentators on some
US media outlets questioned why Obama did not attend or send a top administration official such as Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry was in India for a previously scheduled visit. Attorney General Eric Holder met with European security counterparts in Paris to discuss ways to prevent violent extremism, but did not attend the march. CNN discussed the issue on its news programming. Fareed Zakaria, who hosts a public affairs program on the network, said the absence of senior US officials was a mistake.

Fox News host Greta Van Susteren tweeted: "This is really embarrassing---WHERE IS PRESIDENT OBAMA? Why didn't he go?"

"Sad that 50 world leaders could show solidarity in Paris but President Obama refused to participate. The cowardice
continues," tweeted Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

AFP reports Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had no events on their public schedule for the day.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But Obama on Friday pledged US support for France, saying: "I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow."

The White House said on Sunday that Obama would hold a global security meeting in Washington in February to discuss domestic and international efforts to counteract violent extremism. The fact Obama was not at the march appeared to gain little immediate traction in France on a day dedicated to unity.

One French TV commentator said the US president's visit would have been unthinkable given the level of security that accompanies him at home and abroad.

French news channels have prominently featured Obama's expressions of solidarity with France, as well as Kerry's
remarks in French last week condemning the attacks.

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