By Devin Dwyer and Elicia Dover
President Obama’s remarks today about the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin drew scowls from GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich, who called them “disgraceful” and divisive.
“What the president said in a sense is disgraceful. It’s not a question of who that young man looked like,” Gingrich said on Sean Hannity’s radio show.
“When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids,” Obama told reporters when asked about the case during a Rose Garden press conference.
“I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative to investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together – federal, state and local – to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened,” he said.
Gingrich said on the radio show: ”Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background. Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be ok because it didn’t look like him?”
He went added that it’s “just nonsense dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot. It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban or if he had been white or if he had been Asian American of if he’d been a Native American. At some point we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American. It is sad for all Americans.”
Gingrich, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, said: “Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.”
Earlier this week the Justice Department opened an investigation into the incident which took place in an Orlando suburb last month. Martin, 17, was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain while he walked down a neighborhood street unarmed.
“I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen,” Obama said. “And that means we examine the laws, the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident.
“But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin: If I had a son he’d look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are gonna take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”