President Obama enjoys his sports analogies, so let's just say that he fumbled when he was asked whether he made a "misjudgment" eight months ago in dismissing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as the equivalent of "a jayvee team."
Obama said he "wasn't specifically referring" to ISIS when he made the junior varsity reference during an interview with The New Yorker in January. But the magazine article and a transcript of the interview — which Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler obtained and wrote about earlier this month — shows that Obama was referring to ISIS when he said "if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant."
It is true that Obama was talking about "a whole series of organizations" when he made his junior varsity reference. But ISIS was specifically referenced by the writer and Obama in that January interview as one of those organizations.
Let's go back to what Obama said during his interview with David Remnick of The New Yorker.
The context of the article and the reference to the al Qaeda flag "now flying in Falluja" make it clear that ISIS was among the groups that Remnick asked about and was one of the groups that Obama dismissed as "a jayvee team." In fact, Obama himself makes an indirect reference to ISIS when he talks about Fallujah.
On Aug. 25, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked about the "jayvee team" remark in a press conference, and Earnest responded by saying "the president was not singling out ISIL" when he made that remark. The Washington Post Fact Checker, however, obtained a transcript of The New Yorker interview, and Kessler declared Earnest's statement "fairly misleading" and gave it four Pinocchios — the equivalent of a "whopper."
Here is the relevant portion of the interview transcript, as published by the Post.
The transcript shows that the president was asked about al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Iraq, Syria and Africa, which would include ISIS, when the president made his remark about the "JV team." That was Earnest's point when he said the president "was not singling out" ISIS. But, as the transcript shows, Remnick followed up his initial question with a direct question about the "JV team" that "just took over Fallujah," a reference to ISIS. On Jan. 3, the New York Times reported that "Sunni militants of Al Qaeda … members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS" had planted their flag over Fallujah.
The president can make the case that he wasn't referring only to ISIS when he made his remark about a junior varsity team. But he cannot say that he "wasn't specifically referring to ISIL," because The New Yorker article and the transcript of the interview make it clear that the context of the president's remark included ISIS.