Obama on Attack in Nice: ‘This Is a Threat to All of Us’

The president preached tolerance and unity in a White House address Friday afternoon.

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

NEWS BRIEF “This is a threat to all of us.” That was President Obama’s message to nations across the world Friday as he condemned Thursday night’s bloodshed in Nice, France. Obama addressed the attack during a White House reception for the diplomatic corps, whose ranks include French Ambassador Gérard Araud. Noting that at least two Americans, a father and son on vacation, were killed in the attack, Obama emphasized that the threat of terrorism is a shared problem.

“We don't know all the details but what we know is the capacity of even a single individual to do extraordinary harm to our people, to our way of life. A lot of nations represented here today have been impacted this year and in previous years. In recent weeks, we've seen heinous attacks inspired or directed by ISIL: here in the United States, in Turkey, in Iraq, in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia,” Obama said. “These terrorists are targeting and kill innocent people of all backgrounds and all faiths, including Muslims. And I know I speak for all of us when I say that these individuals and these networks are an affront to all of our humanity.”

Obama said he’d spoken with Araud in person and with French President François Hollande earlier in the day to offer Americans’ support. At least 84 people were killed Thursday during celebrations for Bastille Day—a holiday akin to the American Independence Day—when a large, white truck drove through crowds of people on a seaside promenade. No terrorist organization has claimed responsibility, but in a statement Thursday night Obama said it “appears” to have been a terrorist attack.

Thursday night’s events come roughly eight months after the attacks in Paris, where gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people. On Friday, Obama reassured the officials assembled that the United States and other partners would keep working to prevent similar violence in the future. “We are going to keep taking out ISIL leaders and pushing ISIL back in Syria and Iraq,” he said. “We’re going to keep standing with our partners from Africa to Afghanistan and we are going to destroy this vile terrorist organization.”

Obama also reflected on the “difficult several weeks” the United States has had, seemingly referencing the terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida, and shootings in Texas, Minnesota, and Louisiana. “The divide that exists is not between races and ethnicities and religions,” he said. “It is between people who recognize the common humanity of all people and are willing to build institutions that promote that common humanity. And those who do not. Those who would suggest that somebody is less than them because of their tribe or their ethnicity or their faith or their color. And those impulses exist in all our countries.”

The president repeatedly emphasized tolerance. As reports about the Nice attacks rolled in Thursday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for the United States to deport some Muslim Americans. Without naming him, Obama called such suggestions “repugnant” and an “affront” to American values in his message to the diplomats. “We cannot give in to fear or turn on each other or sacrifice our way of life,” Obama said. “We cannot let ourselves be divided by religion because that's exactly what the terrorists want. We should never do their work for them.”