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Obama: 'If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon'

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:51 a.m. HST, Mar 23, 2012

WASHINGTON >> President Barack Obama spoke in unusually personal terms Friday about the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Florida, a case that has roiled civil rights activists and a suburban Orlando community. "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said, vowing to "get to the bottom of what happened."

Obama expressed sympathy for the parents of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., a suburb of Orlando, by a neighborhood watch volunteer who said he was acting in self-defense.

"I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids," Obama said, calling the case a "tragedy."

The nation's first black president aimed his message at Martin's parents, saying, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans take this with the seriousness that it deserves, and we're going to get to the bottom of what happened."

Obama said that "every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and everybody pulls together, federal state and local, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened."

Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, thanked Obama for his support, saying in a statement the president's words "touched us deeply and made us wonder: If his son looked like Trayvon and wore a hoodie, would he be suspicious too?"

Obama brought his voice to an issue that is sensitive in Florida, a large and diverse state that plays an influential role in presidential elections. The Orlando area in central Florida is particularly important, acting as a bellwether for statewide elections.

Republican presidential candidates weighed in after Obama spoke. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum called the shooting "horrible case" and referred to Florida's "stand your ground" law, which gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight.

Santorum said: "Stand your ground is not doing what this man did."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney issued a statement after Obama spoke that read: "What happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy. There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity."

The Justice Department and FBI have opened a civil rights investigation, and a grand jury is considering whether to charge George Zimmerman, who acknowledged shooting the teen but said it was in self-defense. Martin's parents, civil rights activists and others who have rallied to the cause say they won't be satisfied until Zimmerman is arrested.

Police Chief Bill Lee stepped down temporarily this week to try to cool the building anger that his department had not arrested Zimmerman. Hours later, Gov. Rick Scott announced that the local state attorney, Norman Wolfinger, had recused himself from the case in hopes of "toning down the rhetoric" surrounding it.

Martin was returning from a trip to a convenience store when Zimmerman started following him, telling police dispatchers he looked suspicious. At some point, the two got into a fight, and Zimmerman pulled out his gun.

Zimmerman told police Martin attacked him after he had given up on chasing the teenager and was returning to his sport utility vehicle.

Obama cautioned before speaking that he must "be careful so we're not impairing any investigation." But he said he was glad the Justice Department was investigating and that Florida officials had formed the task force.

"I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how did something like this happen, and that means we examine the laws and the context for what happened as well as the specifics of the incident," Obama said.

The case resonates with many black Americans, a key voting group during Obama's 2008 election, who see it as yet another example of bias toward blacks. Civil rights groups have held rallies in Florida and New York, saying the shooting was unjustified. Of Sanford's 53,000 residents, 57 percent are white and 30 percent are black.

At a rally in Sanford on Thursday night, protesters including civil rights leader Al Sharpton called for Zimmerman to be prosecuted.

"We cannot allow a precedent when a man can just kill one of us ... and then walk out with the murder weapon," said Sharpton, flanked by Martin's parents and a stage full of supporters.

Obama has tried to downplay race, as he did early in his term after the controversial arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., a black Harvard University professor, by a white police sergeant in Cambridge, Mass.

Gates was arrested in his own home after the police sergeant arrived to investigate a possible burglary. The charges were dropped, but Obama said the police had "acted stupidly," breathing life into a lingering debate. The president said later he should have expressed his concerns with different language and invited both Gates and Sgt. James Crowley to the White House for a beer.

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Highinthesierras wrote:
Sad, indeed. But even more sad are the hundreds of kids killed every year by guns. Also sad is the political spin jjust because it is an election year.
on March 23,2012 | 06:58AM
EightOEight wrote:
I hope the spin you're referring to applies to all parties. Obama's comment was SOLICITED by the press. The Republican candidates only commented after Obama did because they realize the spotlight on this case is increasing nationally and internationally.
on March 23,2012 | 11:36AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Actually, Gingrich commented last night... prior to President Obama's responding to the reporter's question today.
on March 23,2012 | 01:14PM
1local wrote:
"If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said How does Obama know that if he had a son he would be black skinned? His son could be white skinned. Obama himself has tried to downplay race, as he did early in his term after the controversial arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., a black Harvard University professor, by a white police sergeant in Cambridge, Mass. Gates was arrested in his own home after the police sergeant arrived to investigate a possible burglary. The charges were dropped, but Obama said the police had "acted stupidly," breathing life into a lingering debate. Obama is using the 'race' card. Democrat's are taking full advantage of 'the dead' - they did it before with Mink - Obama is doing it again with Trayvon. - Obama risks losing the Hispanic vote...
on March 23,2012 | 07:06AM
serious wrote:
Yes, in that Harvard case, Obama stated, "I haven't any facts in the case" then he gave a detailed explanation of what he "thought". Prosecuted before any evidence. He's like Jimmie Carter, has to have an opinion on everything--look where it got Carter--I hope the same fate awaits!!
on March 23,2012 | 08:17AM
kainalu wrote:
Right on, Mr. President! President Obama has bent over backwards trying to be "white enough" for those that care. When the full fact of the matter is that his mom is as white as Laura Bush. His grandparents from Kansas. It's refreshing to seem him embrace his ethnicity, Americans are of all color. This isn't about Trayvon the "black" kid, it's about Trayvon the American, the son of Americans. Just like my son, and my grandson. The Sanford Police Department is about to be reduced to ashes. Death to all racists.
on March 23,2012 | 07:23AM
gtracer66 wrote:
"Death to all racists."? Well that should solve the problem. Add more violence to the American landscape.
on March 23,2012 | 09:19AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Really kainalu? And just who gets to decide who the racists are? Dialogue works much better than espousing or carrying out more violence.
on March 23,2012 | 01:15PM
false wrote:
He needs to be impartial. Try to calm the masses without dividing them by race.
on March 23,2012 | 07:28AM
Charliegrunt wrote:
on March 23,2012 | 07:48AM
kailua000 wrote:
agree. this is not a racial issue, its an American issue. That area of the country is known to have issues with blacks and hispanics, but what this man did was wrong. The audio of him saying the young man looked suspicious, like he was 'on drugs or something', when he clearly was not; when zimmerman was told not to get out of the car, not to go after him and he clearly did; The young man was on the phone with his girl, carrying a very threatening bag of skittles and a deadly brew of ice tea when he was pulled/pushed or shoved from behind from what the girl says on the phone. If this were a policeman in an accidental shooting, he would have had his gun taken away and put on desk duty till the investigation was pau. This man keeps his gun, goes home and have a good evening sir.
on March 23,2012 | 08:01AM
serious wrote:
I agree, let the "real leaders" like Al Sharpton take over!!!
on March 23,2012 | 08:14AM
serious wrote:
Personally, I don't give a damn what Obama thinks. He's just like Jimmie Carter, has to micromanage everything. We have systems in place and laws to supply justice. Let it work and don't interfere.
on March 23,2012 | 07:50AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
on March 23,2012 | 09:10AM
EightOEight wrote:
Obama was asked at a press conference for his opinion on this case and he answered; that's not interfering. Let's hope the "systems" and "laws" work...it's been three weeks since this child was murdered and his killer is still free.
on March 23,2012 | 10:41AM
Classic_59Chevy wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on March 23,2012 | 08:23AM
Graham wrote:
on March 23,2012 | 09:07AM
EightOEight wrote:
If the victim was white there would have been an arrest and the community wouldn't be outraged. Instead, the shooter is still free and still in possession of a gun. Obama was asked for his comment on this case and he answered.
on March 23,2012 | 10:33AM
9ronboz wrote:
hitting the low point
on March 23,2012 | 08:27AM
Keith_Rollman wrote:
I related to this story because I have 17 year old boys. I know how his parents feel, because I know how I would feel if some self-appointed vigilante harmed one of my kids because he deemed them "suspicious." But, let's all keep it in perspective. This thing is not about race or gun control, it's about one criminal act that was mishandled by the authorities. I'm glad it got all the publicity and will most likely be corrected, but when the Al Sharpton circus comes to town it's time to back away.
on March 23,2012 | 08:46AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Good points but let's not single out Al...the entire cast of professional race-mongerers were there, all ready to turn this into a racially divisive issue and lynch the shooter before the system has had a chance to work.
on March 23,2012 | 09:12AM
EightOEight wrote:
Well, nobody pays attention until "the circus" comes to town. The Sanford Police Department considered this case closed...
on March 23,2012 | 11:59AM
HD36 wrote:
Hundreds of black kids get shot every day... by other black kids.
on March 23,2012 | 08:53AM
Kapakahi wrote:

And when the cops question the shooters and it is beyond dispute who did it, the victim is unarmed, much younger and smaller, do they arrest the black shooter or let them go?

on March 23,2012 | 10:27AM
EightOEight wrote:
What's your point???
on March 23,2012 | 10:51AM
HD36 wrote:
This case gets so much attention because a black guy was shot and killed, and it wasn't another black guy who killed him. It's so sensational it just breaks my heart.
on March 23,2012 | 08:52PM
Aieagrl wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on March 23,2012 | 09:20AM
EightOEight wrote:
Another stupid comment...
on March 23,2012 | 12:47PM
gtracer66 wrote:
As many have commented, this is not a "black thing" it is an American thing. Bringing in the FBI and calling this a "civil rights" case is missing the point. They will call this a "hate crime". I have no way of knowing if Mr. Zimmerman "hates" blacks. He may or may not be prejudice against blacks. There is a chance that he may have found himself in a position that made him truly afraid. But he was clearly wrong to shoot this kid when he as on the phone with dispatch. He was told not to leave his vehicle. I suspect dispatch had a car on the way. He should have remained in the vehicle and waited for help. Had Trayvon then tried to invade the car, Mr. Zimmerman would have had a right under the "stand your ground" law to protect himself. I believe the "stand your ground" law is a good effort to allow people to protect themselves int he face of real danger. The Supreme Court has stated that the police are not required to give 24/7 protection to every individual citizen. At some point the citizen must be allowed to protect themselves without fear of losing their liberty and possessions. This also should give those who would harm us to have second thoughts about attacking people. If criminals have nothing to fear, they will not hesitate to take advantage of the public. Having said that, I believe that like many laws, this law has the potential of being abused. And from the incomplete information available in this case, I suspect that this is an example of abuse of a sensible law.
on March 23,2012 | 09:40AM
ballen0607 wrote:
This commentary is like a feeding frenzy.....who can bash Obama the most??? I swear to god, the man could save the world from an apocalypse and still be criticized.... you people are amazing! LOVE IT!
on March 23,2012 | 09:51AM
steelinhome wrote:
Mr. Zimmerman is, by some accounts, not a "white man", but Black/Hispanic. What did President Obama say about the white 8th grader in St Louis MO who was doused in gasoline an set afire by two black boys?
on March 23,2012 | 09:58AM
EightOEight wrote:
The name Zimmerman is German/Jewish in ethnic origin although we don't know if he was adopted or of mixed race. And if Obama was asked to comment on the Missouri case I'm sure he would have.
on March 23,2012 | 10:50AM
TLehel wrote:
People, this is an article that is about a kid that got killed for no reason. You're adults, right? Well then, stop being damn children ranting about Obama. It's silly really because he has little to do with the ACTUAL ISSUE.
on March 23,2012 | 11:28AM
Hahaione2000 wrote:
The Prez wouldn't have a son like him. He's half white, too.
on March 23,2012 | 01:00PM
EightOEight wrote:
You and Aieagrl should get together. You could have a nice, mindless conversation over coffee or something...
on March 23,2012 | 03:29PM
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