The White House is disputing Sony's claim that it reached out to top administration officials to specifically discuss canceling the release of the North Korea satire "The Interview" amid threats from hackers. Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told CNN on Friday that, "A few days ago, I personally did reach out and speak to senior folks in the White House and talked to them about the situation and actually informed them that we needed help." Lynton said he didn’t call President Barack Obama directly, but "the White House was certainly aware of the situation."
Lynton was responding to earlier comments made by President Barack Obama, who called the decision to cancel the release "a mistake" Friday and said, "I wish they had spoken to me first. I would've told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you're intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.'"
And while the administration does not deny that they may have had contact with Sony, they say the company's "distribution decisions" weren't discussed. A senior administration official told NBC News: "As the president said yesterday, the White House was not consulted about Sony's distribution decisions. Per standard practice, and as was the case with Sony, the federal government and agencies communicate with private sector entities to bolster their cyber defenses on a regular basis."
The FBI has blamed the cyberattack on Sony on the North Korean government. "The Interview," starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, depicts the fictional assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Lynton said Sony had no choice but to cancel the Dec. 25 release after major theater chains refused to carry the film.
The official said that the administration was encouraged by Sony’s statement Friday that the studio was trying to find alternative ways to release the movie. "We are pleased to hear that Sony is actively working to distribute the film. People should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they would like to see it."