If President Obama has a view on whether his Justice Department should bring a civil rights case against George Zimmerman, the White House isn’t sharing it.
“That is not something the president involves himself in,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday when asked about the Justice Department potentially charging Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator found not guilty of killing Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, with a civil rights crime.
Progressive activists and others outraged over the weekend by Zimmerman’s acquittal are demanding that the Obama administration bring federal charges against Zimmerman. But the president clearly has no interest in engaging in such a debate — at least publicly.
Questioned repeatedly about the president’s views on the Justice Department’s review, Carney said Obama “has no opinion to express.”
Carney wouldn’t even say whether Obama spoke to Martin’s parents over the weekend or if the president believed that justice had been served in the case.
In a brief statement on Sunday, Obama urged Americans not to behave violently in reaction to the verdict, saying that a jury had spoken.
Obama, who famously declared in March 2012 that, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” is being noticeably more guarded now about the polarizing episode. His measured response showcases just how politically volatile this controversy is for the White House.
Though critics of the verdict are calling for a heightened response, the Justice Department would risk being viewed as politically motivated were it to pursue charges against Zimmerman. If he does nothing, Obama’s base would likely accuse him of shying away from what they view as an extreme case of injustice.
While not promising specific action, Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that his department remains committed to fighting “stereotypes” that lead to violent incidents.
“The Justice Department shares your concern — I share your concern — and, as we first acknowledged last spring, we have opened an investigation into the matter,” Holder said at the Delta Sigma Theta National Convention in Washington. “And we will never stop working to ensure that — in every case, in every circumstance, and in every community — justice must be done.”