Sony Pictures officially decided not to release The Interview on Dec. 25 as planned, citing the major theater chains that refused to show the movie after hackers made 9/11-style threats against screenings.
“We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers,” the Sony statement said.
“Sony Pictures has been the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault against our employees, our customers, and our business. Those who attacked us stole our intellectual property, private emails, and sensitive and proprietary material, and sought to destroy our spirit and our morale — all apparently to thwart the release of a movie they did not like. We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”
The Associated Press reported moments ago that federal investigators have connected the hacking to North Korea.
At the State Department earlier today, Jen Psaki said department officials did meet with studio executives during production, as revealed in leaked emails, but disputed reports that they OK’d the picture. “We’re not in the business of signing off on content of movies or things along those lines,” she said.
“I can confirm for you that [Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel] Russel did have a conversation with Sony executives, as he does routinely with a wide range of private groups and individuals, to discuss foreign policy in Asia,” Psaki said. “[Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues] Bob King, contrary to reports, did not view the movie and did not have any contact directly with Sony.”
“As we have — as we’ve noted before, entertainers are free to make movies of their choosing, and we are not involved in that,” she added.
Psaki said she wouldn’t compare the comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong-un to the Mohammed film initially blamed for the Benghazi attack, a movie heavily criticized by the State Department.
“I would not put them in the same category, which I’m sure does not surprise you,” Psaki said. “We don’t have — it’s a fiction movie. It’s not a documentary about our relationship with the United — with North Korea. It’s not something we backed, supported or necessarily have an opinion on from here.”
After violent reactions to Innocence of Muslims in 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “the United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”
“We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of other,” the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said back then.
While being asked questions about unilateral changes in Cuba policy today, White House press secretary Josh Earnest if they would relax sanctions on North Korea under the same theory.
“That if you open it up, that you put more pressure on them, maybe they’ll change their behavior?” a reporter asked.
“No. OK,” Earnest bluntly responded, drawing laughter.