Controversial Florida Pastor Terry Jones—linked to an anti-Islam movie that was tied to violent demonstrations in Egypt and Libya—has postponed a planned Sept. 15 protest at the White House. Jones' Stand Up America group said the event would be put off "due to the current international events."
The decision was announced a day after Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, telephoned Jones to ask that he consider withdrawing his support for the inflammatory film.
"This was a brief call in which Gen. Dempsey expressed his concerns over the nature of the film, the tensions it could inflame and the violence it could cause," a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. "Mr. Jones did hear the chairman's concerns, but he was noncommittal."
(The press release from Jones' organization said the protests in Cairo and Benghazi were "further evidence of the destructive nature of Islam. This is the very reason we need more freedom of speech and less political correctness." The protest had been called to denounce Obama's "pro-LGBT"—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender—agenda.)
Dempsey's telephone call generated unease—even anger—among some conservatives. Writing on National Review Online, commentators Mark Steyn and Mario Loyola sharply criticized the decision to have the nation's most senior uniformed officer reach out to a private citizen on an issue related to freedom of speech. Under George W. Bush, liberals complained about White House comments they saw as having a chilling effect on speech.
But the White House shrugged off those concerns on Thursday.
"It was done in full coordination with the White House," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told Yahoo News by email. "We've done this before. [Former Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates, [former CIA] Director [Leon] Panetta and General [John] Allen have reached out to Jones [with mixed success] in the past to urge him not to take actions which could put Americans abroad at risk," Vietor said.