Following much criticism, the Obama administration admitted on Monday that it erred by failing to send a higher-profile representative to the Paris unity march on Sunday.
"I think it's fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
Dozens of world leaders participated in the unity rally that drew around three million people to condemn the wave of terrorism that hit the French capital last week.
But the U.S. skipped out.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron marched side by side with French President Francois Hollande. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas put their conflicts aside to join the rally in unity against terrorist strikes.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov also overcame their differences to attend.
But U.S. President Barack Obama, who signed a condolence book at the French Embassy in Washington on Thursday with the rallying cry “Vive la France!” was a no-show. President Obama also reiterated America’s long-standing solidarity with the French people in a speech on Friday.
“France is our oldest ally.” Obama said. “I want the people of France to know that the United States stands with you today, stands with you tomorrow.”
According to a White House official, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had an empty public schedule on Sunday. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was on a pre-planned trip in India during the march.
In an interview with NBC News, Kerry described the buzz over the U.S.’ absence as “quibbling”.
"We have offered, from the first moment, our intel, our law enforcement and all of our efforts, and I really think that, you know, this is sort of quibbling a little bit," he said.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in France, however, for a terrorism summit with French President Francois Hollande. He left the Elysee Palace after the conference and appeared on four Sunday morning talk shows during the march.
Washington’s only representation at the march was U.S. ambassador Jane Hartley.
Obama was widely criticized by pundits and political opponents for not showing up or sending a senior administration official to represent him in this huge event.
— Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria) January 11, 2015
CNN’s Farid Zakaria called the U.S.’s absence a “mistake.” Republican Rep. Pete King also disapproved of the ill-representation, calling it a “serious mistake,” especially that the U.S. has asked for the help of other countries to fight terrorism.
“If the highest-ranking official is an ambassador, I would say that’s a serious mistake,” King said. “America has asked other countries for troops in Afghanistan and Syria. We are looking for cooperation from around the world… we should have had someone there who is instantly recognizable (so people) see…and say, ‘That’s the United States of America.’”
On Sunday night, a White House official pointed out that Obama’s absence was due to security concerns. "It is worth noting that the security requirements for both the President and (Vice President) can be distracting from events like this — for once this event is not about us!"
Millions of Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists and people of all cultural and racial backgrounds flooded central Paris on Sunday, holding signs saying “Je suis Charlie,” as a slogan of unity and defiance, and calling for peace and an end to violent extremism.
The U.S. will host an international anti-terrorism summit on Feb. 18 to fight Islamic extremism acts of violence. The conference will highlight efforts to prevent radicalizing and recruiting individuals to commit such acts.