President Obama’s comments last week about race in the aftermath of the verdict in the George Zimmerman case were widely hailed among a number of elected officials, editorial boards and civil rights organizations. But not everyone was pleased with the president’s remarks, with many, particularly on the political right, offering stinging criticisms.
For example, Fox News radio host Todd Starnes condemned the president’s remarks, saying that the speech on race officially made Obama the nation’s “Race-Baiter in Chief.”
In a Facebook post, Starnes said that the president’s remarks on the Trayvon Martin tragedy "are beyond reprehensible.” He added: “He actually said the outcome might have been different if Trayvon had been white. Folks — we have reached a very dangerous point in this nation when the president of the United States begins to question the judicial system.”
On Friday, the president gave some unscheduled remarks about the role of race in America and his take on why the Zimmerman verdict had touched such a strong nerve in the African-American community. Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin.
In his remarks, Obama said that many African-American men, including himself, have had experiences of being looked at suspiciously and profiled, adding that he related to the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
"When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said this could've been my son,” Obama said, in his remarks. “Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,"
Dana Perino, a former press secretary for President George W. Bush, said that Obama should have addressed the issue of crime committed by African-Americans.
Perino questioned why the president did not address an incident that occurred in Brunswick, Georgia, by two African-American teenagers during what the mother says was a robbery attempt, when a white toddler was shot in the face and killed.
“When a president speaks, it’s to multiple audiences,” Perino said. “So from the prism of self-defense, when you think of a young mother whose two-year-old son was shot in the face by the two Black teens who approached her in Atlanta, and that baby has died, why do presidents choose to speak about one case and not the other? That’s why, it’s better maybe not to talk about any of them. They chose to talk about this one.”
Sean Hannity, a host on Fox News, said that Obama identified with the teenage Trayvon Martin because the two had smoked marijuana.
"Now the president's saying Trayvon could've been me 35 years ago," Hannity said on his radio show. "This is a particularly helpful comment. Is that the president admitting that I guess because what, he was part of the Choom Gang and he smoked pot and he did a little blow. I'm not sure how to interpret because we know that Trayvon had been smoking pot that night."
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(Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)