President Barack Obama's remarks about slain black teen Trayvon Martin are continuing to draw criticism, and a minister who heads a nonprofit educational and motivational organization has accused the president of using the case to raise racial tensions in the country. A White House spokesman insists, however, Obama's comments came from a concerned parent, not a race baiter.
The Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, who claims he is often referred to as "the antidote to Jesse Jackson," took issue with President Obama saying, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," and calling on Americans to do "some soul searching" over the case. According to the outspoken conservative Republican, who is founder and president of BOND Action, Obama's remarks suggest that he sees America as a country of racists.
"Obama's comments support what the race hustling black leaders have claimed, which is that Trayvon Martin was gunned down because of his race, but new evidence contradicts this theory. And by saying that Americans need to do 'some soul searching' Barack Obama is implying that we're a nation of racists," Peterson said in a statement.
However, White House senior adviser David Plouffe has sought to explain President Barack Obama's comments, saying that the president feels that "no matter gender or race, this is a tragedy," and that he was only showing his parental instinct when he said his son would have looked like Martin.
The details behind the Trayvon Martin case remain unclear, although new information in the case has emerged that suggests 28-year old George Zimmerman may have fired his gun in self-defense when he fatally shot the teen, which also contradicts claims by other eyewitnesses.
An alleged witness has recently come forward claiming he saw a physical struggle between Zimmerman and Martin, and that it appeared Zimmerman was being struck while he was on the ground – which is consistent with the neighborhood watchman's claim that Martin attacked him first.
Martin's parents have protested such accusations, however, and have demanded Zimmerman be arrested and tried for killing their son. Zimmerman was not arrested at the time of the shooting because of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows use of deadly force in some cases of self-defense.
Peterson, who is African-American, added, "This president is once again reinforcing the lie that law enforcement and most whites are racists.
"Considering his history with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. and racist professor Derrick Bell, it's no surprise that Obama sees everything through the prism of race. Americans needs a president who will unite us all based on truth, rather than dividing us with lies."
Still, Plouffe insisted that Obama's reaction was instinctive and not meant to make a racial issue out of the fatal shooting.
GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have both expressed their criticism over Obama's remarks, which prompted the White House senior adviser to call the Republican primary a "circus show" during an appearnce on CNN's "State of the Union."