Former House speaker Newt Gingrich called President Obama’s comments on the Trayvon Martin shooting “disgraceful” and “appalling” in a interview Friday, accusing the president of being divisive by noting Martin’s race.
Hours after Obama had described the shooting as a “tragedy” and said, “if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon,” Gingrich slammed the president in an interview on the radio show of conservative Sean Hannity.
“What the president said is in a sense disgraceful,” Gingrich said. “It’s 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 had been shot that would be ok because it didn’t look like him? That’s just nonsense dividing this country up.”
He added, “It is a tragedy this young man was shot. It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban or if he had been white or if he had been Asian-American or if he’d been a native American. At some point, we ought to talk about being Americans.”
“Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling,” Gingrich concluded.
Gingrich’s remark stood out from both Democrats and Republicans on this issue. Two other GOP presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, on Friday called for a deeper investigation into the shooting of Martin, but neither attacked Obama’s comments.
In his remarks on Friday, Obama had made a nod to Martin’s race, no doubt aware the shooting has particularly galvanized African-Americans. At the same time, he seemed to say the incident should concern parents of all races.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr