Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told CNN on Monday morning that the US was in a “narrative fight” with ISIS.
Earnest appeared on the network as authorities in New York and New Jersey investigated bombs found throughout the area over the weekend, including one that injured 29 people when it exploded on Saturday night in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
Authorities on Monday morning seemed to be changing their initial assessment that the bombs weren’t connected to one another and did not appear to be related to international terrorism.
“What I can tell you is that we are, when it comes to ISIL, we are in a fight, a narrative fight with them, a narrative battle,” Earnest said, using an alternate name for the terrorist group, which is also known as the Islamic State or Daesh. “And what ISIL wants to do is they want to project that they are an organization that is representing Islam in a fight, in a war against the West and a war against the United States.”
Earnest continued: “That is a bankrupt, false narrative. It is a mythology. And we have made progress in debunking that mythology.”
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign immediately seized on Earnest’s comments to criticize the Obama administration.
“When the White House says we are in a ‘narrative fight’ against ISIS just days after a series of apparent terror attacks on US soil we should all be very concerned,” Jason Miller, the communications director for Trump, said in a statement. “For the US troops in Iraq and Syria who are on the frontlines against ISIS, it’s a real fight where we’ve lost real lives.”
Miller added: “Diminishing the threat the Obama administration has allowed to materialize on its watch puts us all at risk and is another reminder that we need new leadership in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. Hillary Clinton has backed President Obama’s failed ISIS strategy to the hilt, and voters should know whether she too shares the White House’s troubling assessment of the situation.”
ISIS propaganda often pushes the idea of a final battle between the West and soldiers of Islam, and experts say ISIS seeks to provoke the West into a war with it.