President Obama appears reluctant to weigh in on the police violence in his hometown of Chicago, even as his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel struggles to maintain control of the situation as the re-elected mayor of the city.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest fielded a series of questions from reporters today about Obama’s lack of response to the situation, citing his history of weighing in on police shootings.
Activists and protesters have stormed the streets in Chicago demanding that Emanuel resign. Instead, the mayor fired his police chief and announced a new task force on police accountability.
When asked if Obama thinks Emanuel should step down, Earnest declined to reveal the president’s thinking.
“That’s a decision for Mayor Emanuel and the voters of Chicago to make,” he said, insisting that the former chief of staff had already done a lot to resolve the situation. He said that the president and Emanuel are friends and that the mayor visited the White House on occasion.
He was not aware whether Obama had called or planned to call the family of the shooting victim.
At one point, Earnest pointed out that Obama had watched the video of the shooting and had a “human reaction.” The president also issued a message on Facebook the night before Thanksgiving, pointing out that he was “deeply disturbed” by the video but praised the protesters for keeping their response peaceful.
Earnest repeatedly defended Obama’s reluctance to weigh in further on the case, insisting that the president cared deeply about the issue but had to remain objective.
“There are limits on the president about what he can say publicly based on his desire to avoid the perception that he is interfering to ongoing investigation,” he said.