- (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Alcorn)
White House senior adviser David Plouffe sought to explain President Barack Obama's comment on the killing of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, saying it showed his parental instinct. The aide also hit back at candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for their criticism of the president.
Obama "was speaking powerfully about this as a parent" and "no matter gender or race, this is a tragedy," Plouffe said on "Fox News Sunday."
The President last week called for an investigation into "every aspect" of the case concerning the Feb. 26 killing of 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, Fla., by a 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother is Hispanic.
"I can only imagine what these parents are going through," the president told reporters in the White House Rose Garden. "When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in American should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this." He also said, "You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
Plouffe said Obama's reaction was instinctive and not because it was being seen as a racial issue.
Many believe Martin's slaying was a possible hate crime, as the shooter is learnt to have made racially-charged statements on a 911 call right before the killing. Martin, who was carrying a bag of Skittles candy and an iced tea, was returning to his father's fiancée's house in Sanford from a convenience store at the time of the incident.
Questions are also being raised why Zimmerman has not been arrested. The Sanford Police Department says Zimmerman wasn't arrested because evidence supports that he acted in self-defense.
Plouffe also responded to Republican presidential candidate Gingrich's remarks over Obama's comment. The former House Speaker's remarks were "reprehensible," the aide said.
Gingrich had said it was not a question of "who that young man looked like." "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'd been shot, that would be OK, because it wouldn't look like him? That's just nonsense."
Plouffe said Gingrich was "clearly in the last throes of his political career." "You can make a decision whether to go out with some shred of dignity or say these irresponsible, reckless things, and he's clearly chosen the latter path, and that's unfortunate for the country," he said on ABC's "This Week."
Plouffe also attacked GOP candidate Santorum for criticizing Obama's remarks on Martin's death. "You know, this Republican primary at some points has been more of a circus show," Plouffe said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Plouffe's defense of Obama's comment comes amid calls for justice. Thousands gathered for protests in Philadelphia on Friday night, and another rally was held in Florida on Wednesday night. On Saturday, protesters gathered in several cities, including Washington, D.C.; Chicago, Ill.; Sanford, Fla.; Virginia Beach, Va.; and Columbia, S.C. A protest is planned Monday in Sanford, Fla.