Obama: Sony 'Made A Mistake' By Canceling The Release Of 'The Interview'

12/19/2014 02:12 pm ET | Updated Dec 19, 2014

President Barack Obama spoke Friday afternoon on the recent hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment, which the FBI attributed to North Korea in a press release earlier on Friday.

During a year-end press conference, Obama said Sony made a mistake by canceling the premiere of the film "The Interview," a comedy about an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

"I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced," Obama said. "Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake."

"I wish they'd spoken to me first [before canceling the release of the film]," Obama said later.

Anonymous hackers breached Sony's servers in November, leaking sensitive emails and documents. Some of the leaked emails included exchanges between the Sony Pictures co-chair and a producer working with the company making racially charged comments about the president's taste in films.

The cyberattack was believed to be in retaliation to the release of "The Interview."

On Dec. 17, Sony canceled plans to release the film -- originally slated to be released Dec. 25 -- after the hackers issued threats to anyone who saw "The Interview." The hackers' message said "the world will be full of fear" and invoked the Sept. 11 attacks.

But Obama said the company shouldn't have been swayed by the likes of Kim Jong Un.

"We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States," Obama said. "If somebody's able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary they don't like, or news reports they don't like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don't want to offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended."

Obama said there was "no indication" North Korea worked with another country to implement the cyberattack.

The FBI said it is "deeply concerned about the destructive nature" of the cyberattack. On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said national security leaders are considering "a proportional response."

Shortly after Obama's press conference, Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told CNN that "the president, the press and the public are mistaken as to what actually happened."

"We do not own movie theaters," Lynton said. "We cannot determine whether or not a movie will be played in movie theaters. So, to sort of rehearse for a moment the sequence of events, we experienced the worst cyber-attack in American history and persevered for three and a half weeks under enormous stress and enormous difficulty."

Lynton said Sony was "surprised" by theaters' reluctance to show "The Interview," and said the company only decided to cancel the release after the "majority of our exhibitors" said they would not show the film.

This story was updated with comments by Lynton.

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