At least one prominent fact-checking organisation is calling out President Barack Obama for falsely claiming he “wasn’t specifically referring to” Islamic State militants when he dismissed them as a “JV” team.
During a Sunday interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Obama was pressed on the comments, published in a January profile in The New Yorker. In the piece, Obama was asked about the jihadist militants that had just captured Fallujah, Iraq. He replied: “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”
Obama told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd that he was speaking broadly at the time and not specifically about the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, that has recently killed two American journalists and is threatening still more violence.
“Keep in mind I wasn’t specifically referring to ISIL. I’ve said that, regionally, there were a whole series of organisations that were focused primarily locally,” Obama said, according to an NBC transcript. “And I was very specific at that time. What I said was, not every regional terrorist organisation is automatically a threat to us that would call for a major offensive.”
But Politifact, a leading fact-checking organisation, subsequently rated Obama’s recollection as “false.” Politifact even reached out to the author of the New Yorker piece to confirm the specific context of Obama’s quote: the capture of Fallujah just days before.
“At the time, Islamic State (often referred to as by its acronyms ISIS or ISIL) was not a household name. It was often referred to as an Al Qaeda-linked group in press reports. But reports from the time clearly indicate that the group was responsible for taking over the city,” Politifact reported. “We rate the statement False.”
In August, a White House spokesman similarly insisted Obama was talking about multiple groups in the New Yorker interview — not just the Islamic State. At the time, The Washington Post’s fact-checking service rated the administration’s spin with “Four Pinocchios.”