Obama wrong to rip Sony without the facts: Diller

Media mogul Barry Diller told CNBC on Thursday that Sony deserves sympathy for the hacking attack on its movie studio and for the way President Barack Obama called the company out at his December news conference.

"They were ... 'unheroically' banged by the president who didn't have the facts," Diller said in a "Squawk Box" interview.

At his year-end news conference, the president criticized Sony for the company's initial decision to pull the release of the movie "The Interview" amid threats of theater attacks by hackers.

Obama also said at the time that Sony should have called him before making that decision, because he would have told the company that it was setting a bad precedent by caving to hacker threats.

Diller, chairman of media and Internet company IAC/InterActive, called that request absurd, facetiously saying, "'Oh yes, I have a business decision to make—get the president.'"

While all this was going on, Sony was working behind the scenes on a digital release, Diller said. "I was working on it for our Vimeo service to be a digital release."

Sony did eventually reverse its decision and released "The Interview" on Christmas Day as planned, but in limited theaters and online for streaming.

Diller also blasted the movie industry for its silence in the aftermath of the November hacking of Sony Pictures. "The Motion Picture Association of America for three weeks said nothing, nothing about standing up for free speech."

"The only real hero oddly is George Clooney," he continued. "Right after this happened he did try gather support" to release the movie with the heads of the movie companies and dozens celebrities.

Sony Pictures also suffered fallout on a second front because the hackers posted online company emails, which pulled the curtain back on the cut-throat culture of Hollywood and the business of making movies.

Diller doesn't think it's fair to hold executives accountable for private conversations.

"There's an issue of free speech publicly and there's an issue of free speech privately. Public free speech has responsibilities. I don't think private free speech has any responsibilities," he said.

In the long run, he does not believe Sony will experience any lasting repercussions.

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