U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week’s terror attacks in Paris lacked the “rationale” of the assault earlier this year on the staff of the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, comments that drew criticism from the Republican presidential field.
“There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that,” Kerry told embassy staff and their families Tuesday in Paris, according to a transcript posted by the State Department.
“There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of — not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, OK, they’re really angry because of this and that.”
Republican presidential candidates immediately seized on the remarks.
Chris Christie told the Weekly Standard that Kerry’s comments were “offensive and truly stupid.” The New Jersey governor echoed the criticism in a subsequent interview with Fox News, saying the secretary of state “needs to get some sleep and shut up.”
“That’s disgraceful for the secretary of state of the United States to stand up and say that there’s some rationale for what happened in January,” Christie said. “These are the kind of weak, mixed signals that this administration sends that helps to really, you know, make the American people think that there’s no one watching the store.”
Jeb Bush also mocked Kerry’s comments during a campaign stop in South Carolina.
“There should be no empathy,” the former Florida governor said. “And there’s no rationale for barbaric Islamic terrorists who want to destroy western civilization.”
John Kirby, a spokesman for the State Department, said Monday night that Kerry wasn’t offering a justification for the attacks, but rather explaining “how terrorists tried to” justify them.
“As he said at time, it was a cowardly and despicable act,” Kirby said.