Will Obama talk about the Zimmerman verdict?
July 18th, 2013
03:06 PM ET
9 years ago

Will Obama talk about the Zimmerman verdict?

(CNN) - White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday he's unsure when President Obama will talk about the country's racial issues, which have been front-and-center since the George Zimmerman trial. But he added he's sure the president will comment on the matter when asked about it.

"I don't know when he will next address these matters. In some regards it is up to people who interview him, but he hasn't shied away from these issues in the past and I'm sure he won't in the future," Carney said in the daily press briefing.

The parents of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager shot and killed by George Zimmerman last year, said the "not guilty" verdict in Zimmerman's trial is sending the wrong message to minority teenagers.

"You can't walk fast, you can't walk slow. So what do they do? I mean, how do you get home without people knowing or either assuming that you're doing something wrong? Trayvon wasn't doing anything wrong," Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mom, said Thursday on "CBS This Morning."

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida, followed Martin while the teenager was walking home in February 2012, saying Martin looked suspicious. During an ensuing confrontation, Zimmerman shot Trayvon, claiming he did so in self-defense.

After the weeks-long trial, the six-member jury acquitted Zimmerman, concluding there was not enough proof to convict him of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Martin's parents pushed for the federal government - which is considering whether to file criminal civil rights charges against Zimmerman - to examine the case closely. Fulton told CBS she wants Obama to go through the case "with a fine-tooth comb."

A number of large protests erupted in the days following the verdict, with many expressing anger over the jury's decision. MoveOn.org, a progressive political group, and the NAACP have collectively collected more than a million signatures for a petition urging the federal government to get involved.

Carney reiterated Thursday that the Department of Justice is investigating the matter but the White House, nor the president, would comment "on the specifics of that process."

The president released a statement on Sunday, one day after the verdict, calling for "calm reflection" following the acquittal of Zimmerman. While he nodded to the emotionally charged climate, he concluded that "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."

However, he has yet to speak publicly about the verdict. Obama took part in a round of Spanish-language interviews on Monday, but he was not asked about the jury's decision.

Others have called for Obama, the country's first African American president, to address racial tension in the United States, given the role that it played in the recent trial.

Obama has spoken on race in the past, notably in a 2008 speech during his presidential campaign. The president also addressed racism in a recent commencement speech to graduates at Morehouse College, an historically black, all-male school.

Furthermore, the president weighed in on Martin's death last year, saying the incident requires some national "soul-searching" and added that if he had a son, "he'd look like Trayvon."

Asked by CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin if the president has a desire to speak again about race, Carney said Thursday he is sure the president "will address this when asked."

"The president has talked about the issues of race obviously in the past and has acted on a number of issues that have to do with improving the racial dynamic in our country," Carney added.

He pointed to Obama's comments on voting rights, affirmative action and economic policies as steps the president has taken to improve racial divides in the U.S.

But, Carney added, he doesn't "have a scheduling announcement to make about remarks or speeches."

"(The president's) belief is that Trayvon Martin's death was a tragedy and it was a tragedy for his family, for his community and for the country because of what it symbolizes," Carney continued. "He hopes that we all take the opportunity here to reflect calmly here on what we can do to foster compassion and understanding and also to take action to reduce gun violence."

Some, however, argue the president has not done enough to tackle racial issues from the Oval Office.

Janet Langhart Cohen, author of the play "Anne and Emmett," wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post this week, saying the president has a responsibility to deliver a signature address on race relations now that he's in his second term and "liberated from the racial harness that politics forced him to wear" during his first four years in office.

"To use Dr. King's phrase, there is a fierce urgency of now for the president to talk boldly and truthfully about race and racism and why it still matters in the United States," she wrote. "I hope that President Obama will speak not just to black people or just to white people but to the good people in America. We can never have racial reconciliation without discussing the truth."

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat who's now running for the comptroller's office in New York City, told CNN's Piers Morgan Wednesday that he hopes Obama will give a "good speech" on the debate surrounding the recent Zimmerman trial.

"(The president) has done great things at those moments when we need to crystallize," he said.

- CNN's Josh Levs contributed to this report.

Filed under: President Obama • White House
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    I think he said all that he needs to say about the topic. It's now in the hands of the DOJ. The President is doing the right thing by having AG Holder spearhead the battle against these Stand Your Ground laws.

    July 18, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. Babyboomer

    Here's the thing, if he makes a comment the same people who go crazy will go crazy BAU. If he doesn't make a comment he will be call cold-hearted or uncaring. Our President is in a no win situation so honestly I hope he follows his own heart and mind and says (or doesn't say) whatever he wants to. Nothing will ever please the haters anyway...

    July 18, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  3. tom l.

    But Stand Your Ground was never part of the Zimmerman trial.

    July 18, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  4. Malory Archer

    tom l.

    But Stand Your Ground was never part of the Zimmerman trial.


    Maybe not, but according to the juror who spoke with the media, SYG was a factor in their reaching their verdict.

    July 18, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Some, however, argue the president has not done enough to tackle racial issues from the Oval Office."

    And some, however, will argue that he has said too much. It is a no win for President Obama no matter what direction he chooses.

    July 18, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "But Stand Your Ground was never part of the Zimmerman trial."

    It sure was. The jury was given instructions about the "Stand Your Ground" law, BUT the judge pointedly and strangely refused the prosecution's request that she instruct the jury about the exception to said law: that you can't use it as a defense if you are the one who created the situation in which you now feel threatened. Interesting? You bet, since Zimmerman quite clearly created the entire situation and none of it would ever have happened if he had listened to the dispatcher who advised him not to follow Martin.

    July 18, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "Our President is in a no win situation "

    Indeed. And here's why:

    "Has Obama done too much or too little on issue X?"

    MSM: "Yes."

    July 18, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    ""At 51, Perez is so far the only Latino nominated to Obama's second-term Cabinet. "
    Nice parting shot, there. So far, Sotomayor is the only Latino nominated to the SCOTUS by Pres. Obama.

    some people simply cannot be pleased."

    Yeah, they're called Republicans and Teatrolls.

    July 18, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  9. kayla

    the president know what it is to be black. just look at the way he is treated in the house, they fight tooth and nail not to pass any bill that he want. so, my humble opinon mr president, TELL THEM THE ANSWER IS IN THE QUESTION.

    July 18, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  10. king

    Obama should talk about using poor and minorities as products by the justice systems for corporations. they need these private owned prison systems to make a profit. white folks are safe because white folks votes in masses and wouldn't stand for other white folks being used as cattle, so the system will look for minority folks that doesn't have the numbers to have any power to sway an election. blacks and brown folks are being rowed down the river without a paddle right into the prison system so that big companies can make a profit.

    July 18, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  11. Rick McDaniel

    Only if it benefits him, politically.

    July 18, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  12. ????

    He does not have time to comment on the Zimmerman case. Detroit just filed for bankruptcy.

    July 18, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    I think black Americans have a completely different perspective on America than some white Americans. It was only a mere fifty years ago or so that it was acceptable to kill "coloreds" and cover it up. It was not too long ago that a black man was tied to the back of a pickup in Texas and dragged for miles down the highway until he was dead. They knew that he was dead because his head had come off. And, now we have laws that have made it legal to shoot to kill if you feel scared. These are the sort of horrors that black Americans must fear every day of their lives.

    July 18, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  14. Rickylee44

    Obama should not have anything to say since it's cut and dry. GZ was tried by a court of law and "found not guilty' by a jury of his peers. Case Closed!

    July 18, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. JAX FL

    I live in Jacksonville, Florida. In the ten days we have had four white people murdered and three white people wounded by African-Americans. All incidents were within four miles of each other. Then, we just had Jesse Jackson, Sr. (the one who is not in prison) come and lecture us about Stand Your Ground laws.
    You can't make this stuff up, nobody would believe it.

    July 18, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  16. Sheila

    Detroit – then California / then every state above the mason Dixon line – especially Pa / Va / Ind / Oh / Md / n.y./ & all the little ones more north

    July 18, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |