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White House Criticized for Absence at French Rally

January 12th 2015

Obama and bright lights

The Obama administration was criticized on social media Sunday for the lack of high-ranking U.S. officials at the unity rally in Paris, where more than 40 world leaders marched in commemoration of the lives lost to terrorism last week.

Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris for talks on combatting terrorism and was scheduled to attend the rally. He was replaced by U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley, according to reports.

The absence of top American leaders was felt as countries from around the world sent their own premiers. In addition to French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas all took part in the rally.

The Obama administration emphasized that the U.S. government has been supporting the French this week on a "minute-by-minute basis."

"Attorney General Holder — a Cabinet level official — is representing the United States at the security meetings in Paris today. He is joined by the DHS Deputy Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas. The United States is represented at the march by Ambassador Hartley," a senior administration official told CNN.

"As far as public signs of French solidarity from the U.S. — don't forget several public statements from the president, his call to Hollande and a condolence stop to the French embassy."

Still, the statement did not stop a backlash on Twitter, where hundreds of users and some media personalities lamented the absence of a leader like President Obama, Vice President Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry.

"Embarrassing to the Americans!" tweeted Greta Van Susteren, host of Fox News's "On the Record." "[President] Obama should not have snubbed Paris today — 40+ other world leaders showed up."

CNN's Jake Tapper also commented. "I don't mean this as a criticism of the Obama administration, but as an American, I do wish that we were better represented in this beautiful procession of world leaders," Tapper said.
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