WATCH: White House Press Secretary Explains Why U.S. Isn't Calling Paris Attack 'Terrorism'

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WH Press Secretary Josh Earnest on CNN, January 7, 2015.Credit: Screengrab

CNN Transcript:

EARNEST: Now, I don't want to leave people with the impression that we know that's what happened here. This is something that is still under the - under investigation. We're in the early stages of determining what happened, who is responsible and what their motivation was. But this is, in general, a threat that we are keenly aware of. 

CAMEROTA: But, Josh, you are talking about ISIL or ISIS, as we refer to the terrorist group. Bobby Goshen (ph), who's here on set with us, just passed us a note reminding us that the editor-in-chief of this satirical magazine, Stephanne Charbonnier, was on al Qaeda's 2013 most wanted list. How will you determine which -- whether it was al Qaeda, ISIS? Which way are you leaning now?

EARNEST: Well, again, we're in the very early stages of analyzing what happened and who may be responsible. And we're going to have to figure that out before we can dig really into what their motivation may have been. What we already know, though, is that there are strong ties between al Qaeda and the remnants of al Qaeda and ISIL. That's one of the reasons that we have taken this threat so seriously. And it is one of the reasons that, you know, that we remain very concerned about the threat that's emanating from the leadership in ISIL.

The other thing that ISIL has demonstrated in ability to do, that we're also carefully monitoring, is they have demonstrated a sophistication when it comes to using social media tools to radicalize people around the globe and to encourage them to take up arms in pursuit of their cause. And so that is also something that we've been monitoring very closely.

The other thing that we have tried to do is to work with the leaders in the Muslim community, both here in the United States and around the world, to try to counter those violent messages, that we see ISIL, you know, distort the name of a peaceful religion and destroy the tenets of an otherwise peaceful religion to try to inspire people to carry out acts of violence, and that's why it's incredibly important that we see leaders in the Muslim community stand up and speak out about what the true teachings of Islam are. That's an important part of this, too.

CUOMO: Josh, when you talk about countering the message, you keep using the word violence. I mean, this is an act of terrorism, that's what the president of France called it, an act of terrorism. You're referring to ISIS and other bad actors. It doesn't really matter who it is at the end of the day, you know you're fighting a very large group of people of somewhat similar concern. Do you see this as an act of terrorism, and is this something that has to be condemned on that level?

EARNEST: Well, you know, I think based on what we know right now it does seem like that's what we're confronting here, and this is an act of violence that we certainly do condemn. If based on this investigation it turns out to be an act of terrorism, then we would condemn that in the strongest possible terms, too. I mean, look, this is again based on the very preliminary information that we have, this isn't just an attack, as you point out, Chris, on the people of France and on innocent civilians. This is an attack on some of the basic values that we hold dear here in this country and basic values of freedom of speech, and freedom of expression, and the free press that is also held dear by our allies in France.  

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