March 23rd, 2012
09:30 PM ET
11 years ago

Presidential candidates reflect on Trayvon Martin case

(CNN) – As the nation turned its eye to the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager shot last month in Florida, presidential candidates and President Barack Obama on Friday weighed in on a story dominated by race and questions over local law enforcement tactics.

"When I think about this boy I think about my own kids,” Obama told reporters at the White House. β€œAnd I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together – federal, state and local - to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.”

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"You know, if I had a son he would look like Trayvon," said Obama.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, appearing on a nationally syndicated radio program hosted by Sean Hannity, called Obama's remarks "disgraceful."

"It's not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period," Gingrich said. "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?"

In comments earlier Friday, Gingrich focused on the alleged shooter, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who claims he shot Martin in self-defense.

While campaigning in Louisiana, Gingrich described Zimmerman as "a guy who found a hobby that is very dangerous" and said he "was clearly overreaching" his watch responsibilities.

"I suspect that justice will be done and I think it is a tragedy. In that sense you have to understand how much of a tragedy it is for the family and for the young man involved," Gingrich said.

Mitt Romney, also in Louisiana, said the incident "is a terrible tragedy."

"Unnecessary. Uncalled for. And inexplicable at this point," Romney said. "We hope that justice is done in this case, as in all cases. But very, very tragic. And our hearts go out to his family, his loved ones, his friends. This shouldn't have happened."

Martin's death has rippled into a national uproar, with more than 1.3 million people having signed an online petition urging authorities to file criminal charges against Zimmerman.

Rick Santorum told reporters on Friday that Zimmerman's actions looked starkly different from those protected by "stand your ground" laws.

"It's a horrible case, I mean it's chilling to hear what happened. And of course the fact that law enforcement didn't immediately go after and prosecute this case is another chilling example of horrible decisions made in this process," Santorum said.

Also see:

Romney primary tactics insufficient for general election, Gingrich says

Romney pens op-ed to mark 'Obamacare' anniversary

Santorum doesn't let up on Etch A Sketch attack

DeMint calls for GOP assessment of race, praises Romney

Filed under: 2012 • Newt Gingrich • President Obama • Rick Santorum
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    And, according to Geraldo Rivera and Faux Noise, it's all Martin's fault for wearing a hoodie.

    'But but but...she was wearing a miniskirt!!!"

    March 23, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    As a Floridian, I find it embarrassing how the NRA drags republican lawmakers around by their nose.

    March 23, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  3. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Jeb will never live down the number of deaths his "stand you ground" legislation has caused Floridians.

    March 23, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. NotFooledByDistractions

    Wow, what a surprise, romney actually grew a pair and gave a fairly direct comment about an issue of the day. I was getting used to his tap dancing and noncommittal verbal nonsense.

    March 23, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  5. once upon a horse

    I know this may be a hard thing to think about at this tragic time, but if Zimmerman is arrested and charged in this shooting does anyone think this guy would get a FAIR trial? If so WHERE? He has been convicted in the court of public opinion nationwide and had the Sanford police done their job correctly this would not be an issue. This is a powder keg that never really should have happned on either side. There are no winners here no matter how this comes out.

    March 23, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  6. there is profit in fear aka payback

    ..If Zimmerman, had shot and killed a fetus. He'd be in jail. But since it's an unarmed black teen. He's free......

    March 23, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  7. Phil in KC

    Call me insensitive or racist, but I think this case has been sensationalized beyond proportion. Yes, a young man was killed and that's sad, whenever it happens. But if he were killed by a gang member or drug dealer, would we be hearing about it? Would Al Sharpton be marching? And do we need national coverage day after day? I think not.

    March 23, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  8. Indy

    As usual Romneys statement is manufactured and carries no personality, almost like his staff wrote a blanket statement at least Newt and Obama had some human element to their statements

    March 23, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  9. Doug in NYC

    Mr President, I have 2 sons, and they both look like Trayvon Martin. I get your point Mr President, very well said!

    March 23, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. GI Joe.

    With all the hate and lies they are spreading they should be very afraid - to say the wrong thing again.

    That's what hate and lies do to a civilization.

    March 23, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. Joan

    This whole tragedy could have been avoided if Zimmerman had done what the 911 officer told him and stayed in his car and not got out and followed the young boy. The police were on their way and they would have handled it just a couple of minutes later. The young boy would still be alive when the police found out that his weapons were Skittles and a can of iced tea. Was Zimmerman in some kind of uniform with a badge that identified him as a neighbourhoood watch agent or was he in plain clothes? If not then the young lad had a right to feel threatened if an older, much larger man was following him. If Trayvon had had a gun would he have had the right to shoot Zimmerman if he felt that he was being threatened? That's what this law seems to say. This is not the wild west any more. The amendment saying that people were allowed to bear arms was written during the old west days when cowboys and pioneers needed guns for hunting and protection. It is not like that now. There are way too many guns out there in public and it is just a disaster waiting to happen. In many countries, including Canada, you are not allowed to carry guns in public. Hunters need them transported in proper cases. It is no wonder there are so many murders and shootings in the US daily. It is pretty scary.

    March 23, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  12. Person of Interest

    Wasn't there already a local investigation? I thought these guys were all about the Federal Government staying out of local issues? Oh wait, that's only when it will get them votes. Complete tragedy that is going to get muddied in the political system by being made a political issue. Let's get to the truth on this and punish who needs to be punished. Racial inequality will not be solved in the political system, let alone by these specific guys.

    March 23, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  13. thomas mc

    Notice how NONE of them said a word, until Obama did.

    Leadership counts. Especially if you want to be President.

    March 23, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  14. diridi

    Are we in 21st century or 3rd, where Blacks were suppressed. Just sue the entire Police Division. Tooth and Nail. Good luck.

    March 23, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  15. diridi

    This President is a GOD Gift To USA.

    March 23, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  16. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Zimmerman needs to be taken to the republican prison at Gitmo, where the GOP can ensure him a fair trial.

    March 23, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  17. PJ/TX

    This tragedy just magnifies the absolute racial problems still dogging America.
    The woman in Louisiana added to the problem when she shouted out "pretend it is Obama" while Santorum was
    firing pistols at a firing range. He didn't hear it, but the crowd, once again, laughed. Santorum said her
    remark was "absurd" and "shocking" and he was "glad he didn't hear it". He had earphones on and could not have
    heard her.
    What have we come to in America, when obvious miscarriages of justice are allowed and comments such
    as this woman's are tolerated?
    At least, this time, Santorum had a decent response. The crowd speaks for itself, and they should be
    ashamed, just as certain people in Sanford, Fl should be ashamed.

    March 23, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "As usual Romneys statement is manufactured and carries no personality, almost like his staff wrote a blanket statement at least Newt and Obama had some human element to their statements"

    Narcissists generally find it extremely hard to feel empathy. As for robots, it's literally impossible.

    March 23, 2012 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  19. BLKMANinAmerica

    Right...........................what will you say when it (racist MADNESS) has happend to your child(ren)? How many tears will you cry then I wonder. This is yet another example of just how SICK America is by not addressing the issue at hand.

    March 23, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  20. Blualliance

    The killing of Trayvon Martin is one example of the animus and hatred that is out there for African Americans, magnifiied because of the election of Barack OBama to the presidency. Imagine what OBama has had to withstand from his rabid opposition since day one of the presidency! Every law he has tried to pass has been obstructed and evey word out of his mouth has been twisted and ridiculed. The damage his opponents have done to this country shows itself everyday, and has made it a uphill battle for survival but OBama has taken the high road and charted a steady course of never giving up – showing the amazing strength of his character! Talk radio and Fox news have perpetuated this hatred and helped brainwash many of the african american haters, epecially in the south but ofcourse they would blithly deny this and just continue the propaganda in the name of free speech! Now a young african american is dead as a result of this hatred, continually espoused daily by the the OBama haters in the name of politics as usual.
    People are tired of the inequality and will no longer sit quietly. Watch as 'equality' demands to be heard.....finally!

    March 23, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  21. vic , nashville ,tn

    When lobbyists run the legislative they will pass all kinds of law "Stand Your Ground" is one

    March 23, 2012 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    What I also find troubling is that if it were not for the hard evidence of the 911 tapes, then this would have swept under the rug. I would have been more impressed with GOP candidates if they would have called for an investigation into the original investigators in the police department and the prosecutor's office, and not just into the apparent crime. It appears as if there may have been some obstruction of justice crimes committed, too.

    March 23, 2012 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |