The White House dismissed criticism Thursday that President Obama will not attend the funeral of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and called his plan for honoring Scalia "appropriate" and brushed off charges that Obama's reason for skipping is politically motivated.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked why Obama wouldn't be attending, but never offered a specific reason for why the decision was made for Obama to skip it. He also accused some of trying to turn the issue into a political.
"There's so much rancor and politics and partisanship that we allow ourselves to get drawn into different corners to the extent that some people actually want to use the funeral of the Supreme Court justice as some sort of political cudgel," Earnest said.
"The president doesn't think that that's appropriate," he added. "What the president thinks is appropriate is respectfully paying tribute to high-profile patriotic American citizens even when you don't agree on all the issues. And that's what he's going to do" by going to a service at the Supreme Court on Friday while Scalia lies in repose.
Criticism of that decision should be viewed in the context that Obama "addressed the news media and spent the bulk of his remarks paying tribute to Justice Scalia and his life" Saturday night, Earnest said. "When asked about Justice Scalia at a news conference on Tuesday, the president once again took the opportunity to speak at length about his respect for Justice Scalia's intellect and commitment to the rule of law and his service to the country."
Earnest also said that sending Vice President Joe Biden, who, like Scalia, is Catholic, to the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to represent the administration at the funeral is appropriate because Biden had a personal relationship with Scalia and his family.
"Given his personal relationship with the family and given the president's desire to find a respectful way to pay tribute to Justice Scalia's service to the country, we believe we have settled on an appropriate and respectful arrangement," Earnest said.
Earnest also said sending Biden will mean a slightly smaller security detail at the funeral, compared to what would be needed if Obama attended.