NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- President Obama weighed in on the Sony ( SNE) hacking controversy on Friday, saying that the company shouldn't have pulled its film The Interview despite terrorist threats from a group affiliated with North Korea.
In his final press conference of the year, Obama said Sony sent the wrong message by giving in to fears that theaters showing the satirical film would be subject to attack.
"If somebody is 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," Obama said. "Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others started engaging in self-censorship because they don't want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended. That's not who we are. That's not what America's about."
Must Read: Sony Pulls 'The Interview' From Theaters Amid Safety Concerns
Sony on Wednesday called off its planned Dec. 25 release of the film following an extensive hacking of the film studios computer network saying that "we respect and understand our partners' decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers."
The cyber-attack on Sony Pictures has roiled the studio as sometimes embarrassing emails between top executives and others with rival studios and Hollywood personalities were made public. Sony officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sony's decision not to move forward with the film came after five major U.S. theater chains declined to show the The Interview, citing concerns about the safety of moviegoers and employees. Carmike Cinemas (CKEC) , Regal Entertainment (RGC) , AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC) , Cinemark Holdings (CNK) and Cineplex Entertainment (CGX) all said that they wouldn't show the James Franco and Seth Rogan comedy about a TV crew hired to assassinate current ruler of North Korea ruler Kim Jung Un.
While acknowledging that Sony is a private corporation that "suffered significant damage," Obama said company officials should have contacted the White House rather than called off showing the film.
"There were threats against its employees," Obama said. "I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake."
Obama said the North Korean government was behind the cyber-attack and that U.S. intelligence reports show that it didn't work with another country in hacking Sony's computers.
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