March 25th, 2012
09:00 AM ET
11 years ago

Plouffe calls out GOP candidates over Obama reaction

Washington (CNN) – "Reprehensible." "Irresponsible." "Hard to stomach."

White House senior adviser David Plouffe did not mince words Sunday when talking about the reaction by Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to President Barack Obama's comments on the Trayvon Martin shooting.

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"Those two comments are really irresponsible. I would consider them reprehensible," Plouffe said on CNN's "State of the Union." "I think those comments were really hard to stomach, really, and I guess trying to appeal to people's worst instincts."

While the GOP presidential candidates said the incident was a tragedy, Santorum and Gingrich were particularly critical of the president's response to the shooting in which Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was shot and killed by a George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Zimmerman claimed he shot Martin in self-defense.

A somber Obama on Friday commiserated with the Martin family and urged authorities to fully investigate the shooting.

"If I had a son he would look like Trayvon," Obama said. "I think (his parents) are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and we will get to the bottom of exactly what happened."

Santorum said the president politicized the events, while Gingrich characterized Obama's comments as "nonsense."

"What the president of the United States should do is try to bring people together, not use these types of horrible and tragic individual cases to try to drive a wedge in America," Santorum said Friday on "The Hugh Hewitt Show," a radio program.

"Is the president suggesting if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it wouldn't look like him? That's just nonsense," Gingrich said Friday on conservative host Sean Hannity's radio show, "The Hannity Show." "I mean dividing this country up, it is a tragedy this young man was shot."

But Plouffe, who served as Obama's 2008 campaign manager, said the Republican reaction is evidence of a circus-like primary.

"I don't think there's very many people in America that would share that reaction. You know, this Republican primary at some points has been more of a circus show and a clown show," Plouffe told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

Although he indicated the Obama campaign expects Romney to be the Republican nominee, Plouffe also predicted an aggressive election come fall.

"Romney has a big delegate lead so we've always felt you know because Romney's won a couple of big states lately, the fundamentals kind of support him," Plouffe said. "But it's going to be a close competitive race no matter who come out the other side."

Also see:

Santorum's Louisiana win does little to change the game of delegate math

‘Math isn’t adding up,’ Gingrich delegate says

Santorum video: 'Obamaville' is a house of horrors

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. blackGUY

    why are white republicans always on the wrong side of race issues.

    March 25, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  2. Debby

    Oh Plouffe shut up, Obama went overboard because its election time. All he had to do is give his condolences to the family and not start a range war.

    March 25, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  3. 1twinsfan

    The President could saw he has two daughters and the GOP buffoons would say the President has two black daughters.

    March 25, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. Canadian Jim

    Just talking the numbers here – you can form your own opinion. In the states which have the death penalty, a black who kills a white is 3-4 times more likely to be executed (depending on the state) than a white who kills a black.
    If the roles were reversed in the this case we all know a Trayvon Martin would have been arrested, charged and probably face the death penalty if he had shot Zimmerman, even if he claimed self-defense.

    March 25, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  5. Canadian Jim

    I should add, if Trayvon was poor, he would have no chance at all of escaping the chair. None.

    March 25, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  6. lol

    I see you all busted out your Gingrich list of mind control words to be used to wedge the country apart...figures...

    March 25, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  7. shane

    you guys are idiots.

    March 25, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  8. jstout5111

    There are many innocent black children murdered each year in the U.S., but Obama has said little, if anything, publicly about them. What makes this MURDER different is that it has a HUGE national audience to which he can appeal/appease. Obana's sincerity is suspect. OR, maybe he is only concerned about rich black kids.

    March 25, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  9. hmmmmmmmm

    The comments on this site read like a storylinr from 1960's. Living in complete and utter ignorance to the secret codes of race and ethnicity in society. It is a tragedy that anyone loses their life to violence but to sit and compare one tragedy to another and call the Obama divisive is ridiculous. An unarmed young man was killed walkinh home from the store..let us all remember that the Martin did not have a weapon yet the police has not arrested the shooter? It is sad that in this day time that racism lives so openly and rears its head quite frequently in the forum of public opinion where anonimity allows you to still wear your hoods and cover your faces

    March 25, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  10. Steve

    Newt Gingrich was right. Obama's comments were racist.

    March 25, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  11. jlf

    this just shows the still divison of blacks and whites in America. if the the child killed in Florida had been white, and the President was white and he,the president, had made the comment that if he had had a son he would have looked like the victim,would we even be talking about the comments the President made?.in the 2008 Presidental election, people voted for president, a BLACK President, but the division between black and white will ALWAYS be a part of who we are. have we ever characterized Reagan,Kennedy,Truman,Rossevelt, Clinton, as WHITE!!!!!!!! and if they had made the comment, NO STORY!!!!!!

    March 25, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  12. Thom Real American patriot

    Zimmerman had no right to kill this boy. How would he feel if it was said said that he was following his natural hispanic gang mentality of "protecting his turf" You see how stereotypes work Mr. Zimmerman?

    March 25, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  13. JasonP

    you Republicans suck! Obama was clearly stating that he can imagine what these parents who lost their child feel like, and he could imagine stepping into their shoes and feeling their pain. Whenever I see a child murdered I always compare that to my own son and when the child looks my son it makes it easier for me imagine and empathize with the pain. YOU REPUBLICANS turned it into a race thing, you disgusting sacks of garbage.

    March 25, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  14. tom

    OMG...everytime you think the GOP clowns couldn't sink any lower they just do. What a disgraceful, shameful display of grandstanding and once again trying to raise the hate level against the president. They must have hoardes of flying monkeys who sit and wait to hear every single word out of Obama's mouth or any other DEM and start scribbling to see how they can turn it into something hateful and outrageous to fire up their base. Disgusting....I think all of the 3 stooges as wll as Voldemort Mc Connell, Orange Man Boehner and Pig-man Limbaugh owe the country an apology.

    March 25, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  15. Sagebrush Shorty

    Obama has Foot in Mouth disease and it's not getting better.

    March 25, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  16. dubya

    Newt and rick are racists idiots

    March 25, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  17. lib

    @tireofthebs... TOUCHE!!! The racist on here don't like the president and will continue to criticize his every move. The reporter asked for the president's opinion and he gave a great one! Any parent in this country who can not relate to what he said must be a horrible parent. To some, the color of Trayvon's skin makes the story trivial to them. Sure there are many racist crimes in this country but the president was ASKED about this one. And as someone in the media said, this has become a federal investigation.

    March 25, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  18. Democrat

    I'm a Democrat. I voted for our current President. I think that much of the Republican platform is ludicrous. That being said, I am disappointed in the comments by our President. Initially outraged by the Zimmerman-Martin case, after learning more details about the case I think it's clear that although tragic, the shooting was not racially motivated. The discussion should be about gun control laws and not about race. If we must make the discussion about race then it should be directed towards improving the conditions of education, poverty, and crime which disproportionately affect black Americans, perpetuating stereotypes which lead to racial profiling. President Obama and his staff are intelligent enough to know this. Why they decided to fan the misdirected and tragic in its own right public furor, is beyond me.

    March 25, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  19. NotSilentOne

    President Obama commented on this because of the National attention. And George A. admitted on the 911 tape he followed the boy and then shot him. He could have stayed in his car and waited for the police but did not. And now a life is gone. Pres Obama has the right to comment on whatever he feels necessary. President Obama would never try to divide the country cause it is already divided and too far gone. Racism existed long before Obama was born and will keep this country from prospering. People don't want Obama re-elected because of his skin color alone– has nothing to do with his policies/promises. Why didn't he comment on other tragedies involving African Americans? Geez do you have any idea of the volume of police brutality alone? My gosh he would be commenting on at least five cases a week and there is no time to do that. And just know not all cases make the news–either that's why the numbers are immeasurable. I agree with David P. The Republicans are part of a circus– and they don't know which act to bring out next to try to discredit President Obama.

    March 25, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  20. Anonymous

    Let's get this straight:

    1) The President makes a divisive remark.
    2) The Republican candidates call him on it
    3) The President calls the Republicans divisive for calling him on his divisive remark.

    Ok, got it.

    March 25, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  21. Vader

    Hey "Steve"...

    The words "Newt Gingrich" and "right" are, in and of themselves, a contradiction.

    March 25, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  22. Robert

    "Is the president suggesting if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it wouldn't look like him? That's just nonsense," Gingrich said Friday on conservative host Sean Hannity's radio show, "The Hannity Show."

    This statement is a fine example of false dichotomy. It is fallacious, and more so, just an attempt at 'dividing our country'. Hypocrite.

    March 25, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  23. Jb79

    Truthfulster, Obama never once said that Zimmerman was wrong or that Martin wasnt the aggressor. He said that we owed it to the family to have a thorough investigation ad that he sympathized with a family losing their son to such a tragedy. What a monster that Obama is! Given those facts about what he actually said, how does a witness claiming that Martin attacked Zimmerman make him a racist or show he put his foot in his mout. I guess some hateful fools such as yourself hear what they want to hear....

    March 25, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  24. david Rutledge

    Most of these comments are pretty sad – and divisive. Let's move on to something else and let the authorities do their work; and leave the various families to their grief and healing.

    March 25, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  25. Mark from Schaumburg IL.

    When I saw all five of them come out as one over the tragedy, I felt there was a shred of dignity left in the nation. When I heard two of them turn it into a talking point for the campaign trail, the feeling I had for them vanished. Obama was asked a question, answered it from his heart, and left it at that. I probably would have said something very similar, even though my skin color doesn't match. I saw the picture and saw MY son at that age. MY son could have been in a football uniform smiling. My son also wears hoodies drinks canned tea and eats skittles. When Obama made the remark, I never saw color, I saw a dad with daughters speculating about if he had a son. Shame on you Gingrich and Santorum.

    March 25, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
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