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Josh Earnest, Elisabeth Hasselbeck Tangle on 'Fox and Friends' Over Obama's 'Setback' Quote

White House press secretary Josh Earnest clashed with Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a co-host of "Fox and Friends," on Wednesday morning. Hasselbeck characterized President Obama's response to last week's terrorist attacks as "aloof, apathetic ... and quite cavalier," and wanted Earnest to address it. She noted Obama's description of the attacks as merely a "setback" in the fight against the Islamic State.

Hasselbeck also pressed Earnest on Secretary of State John Kerry's response yesterday regarding the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Said Hasselbeck:

Would you go back and ask for that language to be changed at this point, to reflect some sort of solidarity and intentional aggression against ISIS? I mean, to call this "understandable" as it relates to Charlie Hebdo and call this a "setback" seems awful, at least to the American people.

Earnest replied:

Well Elisabeth, I think what I would ask the American people to do is go look at the transcript of the president's remarks where he described the situation as "sickening" -- where he expressed his profound sorrow at what exactly had occurred, and I think what I would encourage you to do is spend as much time focusing on the president's actions, as you do his words.

Infuriated, Hasselbeck jumped in:

Josh, I will stop you there. The president of the United States' words matter!

Earnest:

Let me finish my answer ... If you have me on your show to talk about a serious issue, give me an opportunity to answer the question.

Hasselbeck:

I will focus on my president's words, Josh!

Earnest:

Elisabeth, if you want to have me on the show to talk about something serious as national security, ask me a question and I’ll answer it.

Hasselbeck:

Josh, we’ve played fair before, I would let you know the president's words matter to me, not just to the American people but to those around the globe who are very concerned now. Our president's words matter. He called it a "setback" why? Just a "setback" seems cavalier. Go ahead and answer the question.

Earnest reiterated his prepared points:

Elisabeth, if you would consider the president's remarks, you will note that he called the attacks "sickening" and expressed profound sorrow of what precisely had occurred. But I would encourage you to spend time to focus on the president's actions.

...

Hours after this terrible terrorist attack took place, the president was on the phone with the president of France to offer any support that they needed in conducting the investigation, carrying out any responses they choose to carry out.

Hours later, the president convened a meeting of his national security team. The president invited the attorney general, secretary of Defense and other leaders to discuss exactly what the U.S. response should be.

The first question that the president asked in that meeting was to make sure, to verify that all of the necessary steps were being taken inside the United States to ensure the safety and security of the American people and the U.S. homeland.

After that, there was an extended conversation about the intelligence and about what sort of military steps we could take to ramp up our efforts inside of Syria and make sure we can support our French allies if they chose to ramp up their efforts inside of Syria. That’s what they've done and we've supported them as they've done that.