White House spokesman Josh Earnest
White House spokesman Josh EarnestReuters

The White House has finally clarified that it does indeed view the attack on a kosher supermarket in France last month as an anti-Semitic attack, despite a clumsy statement by President Barack Obama which appeared to suggest otherwise.

The controversy began on Monday when, in an interview with Vox, Obama attempted to explain his administration's policy on terrorism by stating: "It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you've got a bunch of violent vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris."

The claim that the four murdered Jewish shoppers were shot "randomly" - as opposed to targeted for being Jewish - provoked a storm of angry criticism on social media, particularly since terrorist Amedy Coulibaly specifically told police during the hostage situation at the Hyper Cacher store that "I have 16 hostages and I have killed four, and I targeted them because they were Jewish."

French officials, and even US Secretary of State John Kerry, all referred to the attack as an act of anti-Semitism in their responses - which seemed to suggest Obama was being clumsy with his language as opposed to representing the US government's actual stance on the matter. 

But rather than apologize for the gaff, senior administration spokespeople - first White House spokesman Josh Earnest, and then the State Department's Jen Psaki - dug themselves into a hole by attempting to justify the president's implied suggestion that the attack was not anti-Semitic.

Finally, however, it appears they have stopped digging: