Kerry calls criticism over U.S. absence at Paris rally "quibbling"

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that those criticizing the absence of top U.S. officials at a major unity rally in Paris Sunday are "quibbling" and that it doesn't signify a lack of concern over the shooting at a French newspaper last week.

"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 in the sense that our Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was there and marched, our ambassador was there and marched, many people from the embassy were there and marched," Kerry said

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He appeared to conflate rallies in Paris and Washington, D.C. during his remarks, as Nuland marched in a rally in Washington and did not travel to Paris. But the U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, did attend the march in Paris.

The administration has received some negative attention due to the absence of its most prominent officials at a rally that was attended by more than 40 world leaders from countries that included Great Britain and Germany.

Among those critics was Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who said on "CBS This Morning" Monday, "I thought it was a mistake not to send someone...in hindsight I would hope that they would do it differently."

CBS News Correspondent Julianna Goldman reports that the administration says the security apparatus necessary to include President Obama or Vice President Biden in such an event would have been a distraction. "This event is not about us," the official said.

Even Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in Paris to meet with his law enforcement counterparts from around the world, was not at the rally.

Kerry was holding meetings in India, and told reporters Monday that he "would have personally very much wanted to have been there but couldn't do so because of the commitment that I had here."

Instead, he has planned a trip to Paris on Thursday to "reaffirm the connection" with France.

"I want to emphasize that the relationship with France is not about one day or one particular moment, it's an ongoing, long-time relationship that is deeply, deeply based in the shared values and particularly the commitment that we share, freedom of expression," Kerry said.

Mr. Obama mentioned the terror attacks during public statements last week and also visited the French embassy to sign a book of condolences on Thursday.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.