White House traps itself in terrorism word games

That was nearly eight years ago. Now, the president’s aversion to the phrases “Islamic terrorism” and “Islamic extremism” has made it difficult for top U.S. government officials to discuss world affairs without becoming caught in word games. When is it OK to mention Islam? When is it not? What about Christianity and other religions?

White House spokesman Josh Earnest fell into a variety of holes Wednesday as he tried to navigate the president’s vocabulary requirements. For example, a reporter noted that Obama and top administration officials “have gone to great lengths to not say that it’s a summit about Islamic extremism … but if you look at the groups that are participating, most of them … are related in one way or another to the Muslim community. How do you square the message with the participants?”

“We’re very mindful of the fact that a particularly virulent strain of extremist ideology has tried to insert itself in the Muslim community,” Earnest said. Weaving back and forth, Earnest noted that extremism can take other forms, such as in the 2012 shootings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, although on the other hand “that does not diminish in any way the concern that we have that some extremists have made some inroads into some Muslim communities.”