March 22, 2016 4:43 PM EDT

President Barack Obama on Tuesday defended his decision to stay in Cuba where he attended a baseball game with Cuban President Raúl Castro during the aftermath of the deadly attacks in Brussels.

The commander-in-chief, who was criticized by some on social media after video surfaced of the two leaders doing “the wave” at the game, suggested it would have been a sign of defeat if the attacks derailed the historic visit, Politico reports. “It’s always a challenge when you have a terrorist attack anywhere in the world, particularly in this age of 24/7 news coverage,” Obama told ESPN. “You want to be respectful and understand the gravity of the situation, but the whole premise of terrorism is to try to disrupt people’s ordinary lives.”

The President recalled a pre-game speech given by former Boston Red Sox player David Ortiz, who told fans that “nobody is going to dictate our freedom” after the 2013 Boston marathon bombing. “That is the kind of resilience and the kind of strength that we have to continually show in the face of these terrorists. They cannot defeat America,” the President said.

Obama was watching a historic matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team when he was asked to weigh in on the coordinated attacks in the Belgian capital that left 31 people dead and at least 190 wounded. In an earlier speech in Cuba, he addressed the devastating bombings, saying the American people “stand in solidarity” with Belgium. “We will do whatever is necessary to support our friends and allies in Belgium in bringing to justice those who are responsible,” he said at the time. “This is yet another reminder that the world must unite.”


Obama told ESPN that he and other world leaders were committed to bringing extremists down. “We are going to continue with the over 60 nations that are pounding ISIL, and we’re going to go after them,” he said, using another name for the terrorist group. “The notion that any political agenda would justify the killing of innocent people like this is something that’s beyond the pale.”


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