Obama Criticizes Fear of ISIS, Asks Media to ‘Maintain Perspective’

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During a press conference at a meeting of the United States-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Malaysia on Sunday, Obama maintained his belief that the U.S.-led coalition will defeat the Islamic State. Obama also warned against succumbing to fear of ISIS and called for the media to report in a way that would “maintain perspective” and avoid bolstering terrorism, while calling militants “a bunch of killers with good social media.”

At the conference, Obama began by discussing current relations with Japan, Australia and the Philippines, and said he wanted to talk about a headline that called the trip “Obama’s Asian Distraction?”

“The premise seemed to be that this region was somehow disconnected from pressing global events,” Obama said. “I could not disagree more.  This region is not a distraction from the world’s central challenges, like terrorism. The Asia Pacific is absolutely critical to promoting security, prosperity and human dignity around the world.”

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[RELATED: Reality Check: Proof U.S. Government Wanted ISIS To Emerge in Syria]

Obama noted that for over a year, the U.S. “has built and led a broad coalition,” which consists of 65 nations, against ISIS. However, because of “the frequent focus on America’s leadership of this campaign,” Obama claimed that the contributions of other partners are overlooked.

[RELATED: U.S. Encourages Coalition Partners to Intensify the Fight Against ISIS… Online?]

Obama also noted that “more than 40 countries have now passed or strengthened laws to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, and 34 nations, including the United States, have arrested foreign terrorist fighters.”

[pull_quote_center]All of which is to say that our coalition will not relent. We will not accept the idea that terrorist assaults on restaurants and theaters and hotels are the new normal – or that we are powerless to stop them. After all, that’s precisely what terrorists like ISIL want, because, ultimately, that’s the only way that they can win. That’s the very nature of terrorism – they can’t beat us on the battlefield, so they try to terrorize us into being afraid, into changing our patterns of behavior, into panicking, into abandoning our allies and partners, into retreating from the world. And as President, I will not let that happen.[/pull_quote_center]

When asked if he would consider Russia being a part of the coalition, Obama said it depends on whether the nation can make a “strategic adjustment.”

“It will be helpful if Russia directs its focus on ISIL, and I do think that as a consequence of ISIL claiming responsibility for bringing down their plane, there is an increasing awareness on the part of President Putin that ISIL poses a greater threat to them than anything else in the region,” Obama said. “The question at this point is whether they can make the strategic adjustment that allows them to be effective partners with us and the other 65 countries who are already part of the counter-ISIL campaign.  And we don’t know that yet.”  

When asked how Americans should feel about the Islamic State “if they shouldn’t be scared,” Obama said he believes there is a difference “between smart applications of law enforcement and military and intelligence, and succumbing to the kind of fear that leads us to abandon our values.”

Obama noted resilience of Americans in the face of terrorism, and said “once this network is destroyed- and it will be- there may be others that pop up in different parts of the world, and so we’re going to have to continue to take seriously how we maintain the infrastructure that we’ve built to prevent this. But it doesn’t have to change the fundamental trajectory of the American people. And that we should feel confident about.”

Obama went on to say that “the media needs to help in this. I just want to say- during the course of this week, a very difficult week, it is understandable that this has been a primary focus. But one of the things that has to happen is how we report on this has to maintain perspective, and not empower in any way these terrorist organizations or elevate them in ways that make it easier for them to recruit or make them stronger.”

Investigative journalist Ben Swann reported on the origin of ISIS in March, and he noted that while the perception has been created that the group is the “creation of American inaction,” the reality is that they are the “product of direct action.”

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