Kerry on 'Quibbling' Over White House Skipping Paris March: I Was First in the World to Condemn Attacks

Secretary of State John Kerry called concern about no high-level U.S. representation "quibbling," telling reporters in India that he asked his scheduler to fit in a trip to Paris as soon as possible.

The New York Daily News ran photos of President Obama, Vice President Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Kerry on its cover today with the headline "You let the world down."

Holder was already in Paris for security talks, but declined to attend the march. The U.S. ambassador to Paris, Jane Hartley, went instead.

More than 40 world leaders attended the Sunday event which drew an estimated 1.5 million in the streets of Paris in a show of solidarity against terrorism, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Renzi, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Queen Rania, EU President Donald Tusk, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

An administration official told CNN, "As far as public signs of French solidarity from the U.S. -- don't forget several public statements from the President, his call to [French President Francois] Hollande and a condolence stop to the French embassy."

Speaking at a press conference today during his visit to Gujarat, Kerry said "the relationship with France is not about one day or one particular moment."

"It's an ongoing, long-time relationship that is deeply, deeply based in the shared values, and particularly the commitment that we share in freedom of expression," he said, adding that he'd asked his team to pencil him in for a Paris visit ASAP -- Thursday.

"As I said on the first day, and as the president said on the first day that these terrible events took place, it will take -- no single act of terror, no two people with AK-47s, no hostage-taking in a grocery store is ever going to prevent those who are committed to the march for freedom to continue to march and to ultimately see all people enjoy their rights, and to be able to share the protections that come with that freedom," Kerry continued.

"The president and our administration have been coordinating very, very closely with the French on FBI matters, intel, law enforcement across the board, and we will continue to make available any assistance that may be necessary. For the United States, that relationship is a constant, and it is ongoing. And I look forward to having a chance to share thoughts with my friends in France personally, when I get there."

When pressed on the absence of any high level U.S. officials and whether it was a mistake, Kerry insisted that the U.S. "has been deeply engaged with France from the moment this horrific event took place."

"I personally -- I think I must have been one of the first people in the world to have gone out publicly and spoken to the people of France about this, to our shock and horror and our very, very strong connection with the French at that moment. And the president also went out within hours and spoke about it," he added.

"And we have offered, from the first moment, our intel, our law enforcement, and all of our efforts. And I really think this is sort of quibbling a little bit, in the sense that our Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, was there in the march. Our ambassador was there in the march. Many people from the embassy were there in the march."

But as French Ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud noted on his personal Twitter account, Nuland marched not in Paris but at a Sunday event put on by the French Embassy in Washington. She was the highest-level U.S. official there, even though the French Embassy is just a 15-minute drive from the White House.

Neither Obama nor Biden had anything on their schedules Sunday.

"And I believe that, as everybody knows, I have been here in India for a prior planned event," Kerry said. "I would have personally very much wanted to have been there, but couldn't do so because of the commitment that I had here, and that's important to keep those kinds of commitments. But that is why I am going there on the way home, to make it crystal clear how passionately we feel about the events that have taken place there. And I don't think the people of France have any doubt about America's understanding of what happened, about our personal sense of loss, and our deep commitment to the people of France in this moment of trial."