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White House Regrets Failure To Send Top US Official To Paris Rally

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- As world leaders linked arms and marched in defiance of terror attacks in Paris, there was one glaring absence: a high-level representative from the United States.

President Barack Obama spent the weekend at the White House. Vice President Joe Biden was in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. Secretary of State John Kerry was on a long-planned trip to India. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris attending a security summit, but did not make an appearance at the march on Sunday.

The Obama administration was instead represented by U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley.

Absence Of Top US Official At Paris March Stokes Criticism

The White House said the president's security would have significantly interfered with the crowds, CBS2's Matt Kozar reported.

It, however, admitted Monday it made a mistake by not sending high-level representation.

"Some have asked whether or not the United States should have sent someone with a higher profile than the ambassador to France, and I think it's fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

Earnest sought to reassure the world that the U.S. really does care.

"There is no doubt that the American people and this administration stand foursquare behind our allies in France," he said.

Among those upset over the failure were Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

"Eric Holder was in Paris, and maybe John Kerry should have gone, or somebody else,'' Rubio, a Republican, said in an interview on "CBS This Morning." "There's a plethora of people they could have sent. I think in hindsight I hope that they would have done it differently."

"I certainly would've loved to see them there," Menendez, a Democrat, told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell.

More than a million people walked the boulevards of Paris on Sunday in what French officials called the largest demonstration in their country's history. The rally was aimed at showing unity following terror attacks by Islamic militants that left 17 people dead.

The procession was led by more than 40 world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Asked about the criticism, Kerry said, "I really think that this is sort of quibbling a little bit." Still, the State Department announced that Kerry would be traveling to Paris this week to show solidarity with the French people.

The Justice Department sidestepped questions about why Holder didn't appear at the march despite being in Paris on Sunday. Spokesman Brian Fallon noted that Holder had been with French officials during his trip and pledged "continued assistance to the French authorities as they conduct their investigation.''

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