WASHINGTON -- White House press secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged Thursday that Obama administration officials screened the film "The Interview" months ago at the request of Sony executives.
"Administration officials were consulted about the film prior to its release, at the request of the company that was producing it," Earnest said during his daily briefing. "Input was shared."
Earnest said Sony reached out to the administration to ask them to review the film, a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogan that depicts the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. One leaked scene shows Kim Jong Un's head exploding, though it is not clear what version made it into the final version of the movie.
The FBI and Justice Department are currently investigating a major cyber attack on Sony Pictures that is likely the work of North Korea, after the country said the film's portrayal of their leader was an "act of war." The hackers leaked Sony documents and unreleased films on the Internet as part of their attack. Sony ultimately cancelled next week's planned release of the film, amid threats of attacks on the theaters that show it.
Earnest wouldn't say if North Korea is behind the hack, but said it is being treated as "a serious national security matter" carried out by a "sophisticated actor." He said administration officials are still reviewing the hack, and didn't rule out the U.S. carrying out a cyber counterattack on the computers behind the attack.
The hacks have been the subject of several White House meetings already, he noted.
President Barack Obama said in a Wednesday interview that the cyber attack is "very serious." But, he added, people should not be afraid to go to theaters.
"My recommendation would be that people go to the movies," he said in the ABC interview.
During his Thursday briefing, Earnest also didn't rule out the possibility of Obama showing the film at the White House, to make it clear the government is not intimidated by threats of attack. But it won't be happening in the near future.
"I don't think we're going to be showing the film here anytime soon," he said.