President Obama, after staying mum over the weekend on the explosions in New York and New Jersey and the stabbing spree in Minnesota, emerged Monday to thank law enforcement and first responders for their efforts – and then scolded the media for their reporting.
“I would ask that the press try to refrain from getting out ahead of the investigation,” Obama said in New York.
While praising the FBI and other law enforcement, he said, “It does not help if false reports or incomplete information is out there.”
It’s unclear what exactly Obama was referring to, though he notably did not describe the attacks in New York City and New Jersey as terrorism. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has used that description, which was widely reported.
Obama, rather, referred to the “explosions” – a pipe bomb that went off in New Jersey and another device that exploded Saturday in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York, injuring 29.
“Our prayers go out to all of those who have been injured. We want to wish them a speedy recovery,” Obama said, vowing to “make sure justice is done.”
The president made no mention during his remarks of emerging reports that the man sought in connection with the bombings, Ahmad Khan Rahami, was taken into custody. Fox News is told Rahami was taken into custody after a shootout with police on Monday morning.
Obama, meanwhile, described the separate stabbing attack in St. Cloud, Minn., as a “potential act of terrorism.” In that incident, a young Somali man went on a stabbing spree, injuring eight people – the Islamic State claimed responsibility via ISIS-related media.
Obama said at this point, they see “no connection” between the Minnesota attack and the incidents in New York and New Jersey.
Until Monday morning, Obama had been publicly silent on the attacks, even as he swung by a fundraiser Sunday night just blocks from the scene of the Chelsea explosion. A transcript of his remarks showed he stuck to politics during the fundraiser, at the Gramercy Park home of restaurateur Danny Meyer and his wife.
He talked about gains in the economy and his foreign policy accomplishments and went on to blast Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“We now have one candidate in this race who is prepared to carry on that same type of governance. I have had the opportunity to work with Hillary Clinton,” he said. “… And then there's the other guy. … This guy is not qualified to be president. And he shows no interest in even gaining the rudimentary knowledge required to make really hard decisions on a day-to-day basis. There's no curiosity, there's no desire to get up to speed. It's an infomercial.”
Trump tweeted that under Obama’s leadership, “Americans have experienced more attacks at home than victories abroad. Time to change the playbook!”
According to officials, the president has been receiving regular updates on the explosion in New York City as well as the ongoing investigation in New Jersey.
Aside from the Chelsea explosion, authorities are investigating a pipe bomb blast over the weekend in New Jersey and five explosive devices later found at a New Jersey train station. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was criticized Monday by the Trump campaign for describing the terror challenge as a “narrative threat.”
“When it comes to ISIL, we are in a fight, a narrative fight with them. A narrative battle. And what ISIL wants to do is they want to project that they are an organization that is representing Islam in a fight and a war against the West, and a war against the United States. That is a bankrupt, false narrative,” Earnest had told CNN.
“When the White House says we are in a ‘narrative fight’ against ISIS just days after a series of apparent terror attacks on U.S. soil we should all be very concerned,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement. “… Diminishing the threat the Obama administration has allowed to materialize on its watch puts us all at risk and is another reminder that we need new leadership in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism.”