Close Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett said in a video released Sunday to mark the 11th anniversary of the shooting death of Black Florida teen Trayvon Martin (as he pounded George Zimmerman’s head into the sidewalk) that then President Barack Obama told her to plant a question about Trayvon with a reporter at a Rose Garden event announcing the nomination of Jim Yong Kim for World Bank President held on March 23, 2012.
George Zimmerman and Travon Martin. Zimmerman was tried and acquitted in the death of Trayvon, successfully claiming self-defense.
Video and transcript of the event shows that only one question was asked at the event, and it was about Trayvon Martin.
Jarrett: “President Obama had a press conference scheduled not long after the death of Trayvon Martin and we were in the Oval Office with him right before he went out to make his remarks. And he said to us in a very emotional way, “There is a reason why the Black community is so outraged by this stuff because he’s walking down the street with Skittles in his own neighborhood and why is he a threat?
“And then he said I want you to make sure a reporter asks me about this, even though it’s not a topic of the press conference, I want my voice in this.”
Video by Valerie Jarrett on the tenth anniversary of the death of Trayvon Martin where she mentions Obama wanting the Trayvon question planted with a reporter.
Eleven years ago today, Trayvon Martin's life was cut short as he walked home with a bag of Skittles.
Today I'm thinking of Trayvon, his family, and all the families in our country—including my own—who worry every day about the safety of their sons and brothers. pic.twitter.com/ohJQUjNSjD
— Valerie Jarrett (@ValerieJarrett) February 26, 2023
This video clip and screen image from C-SPAN shows the reporter asking the question.
Watching User Clip: Obama Answers Question on Trayvon Martin 3/23/2012 @CSPAN https://t.co/ELsJFaqYFI
— Kristinn Taylor (@KristinnFR) February 26, 2023
YouTube video by Obama White House shows the reporter listening to Obama’s answer:
Transcript via Obama White House archives:
Q Mr. President, may I ask you about this current case in Florida, very controversial, allegations of lingering racism within our society — the so-called do not — I’m sorry — Stand Your Ground law and the justice in that? Can you comment on the Trayvon Martin case, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m the head of the executive branch, and the Attorney General reports to me so I’ve got to be careful about my statements to make sure that we’re not impairing any investigation that’s taking place right now.
But obviously, this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together — federal, state and local — to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.
So I’m glad that not only is the Justice Department looking into it, I understand now that the governor of the state of Florida has formed a task force to investigate what’s taking place. I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen. And that means that examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident.
But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
10:15 A.M. EDT
Reporting at the time on the context of Obama’s comments, Time called the question “unplanned” (excerpt):
In a flash, by answering an unplanned question shouted during an unrelated event, Obama had erased the careful distance from the case that his aides have maintained for days. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Trayvon Martin’s family,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on March 19. “But obviously, we’re not going to wade into a local law-enforcement matter. I would refer you to the Justice Department and local law enforcement at this point.”
Obama’s press handlers have discouraged the President from getting involved in local issues. It took them weeks to deal with the fallout from his comments on Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates’ run-in with local law enforcement in 2009. In 2010, Obama’s comments supporting the concept of an Islamic center in lower Manhattan undercut weeks of Democratic messaging on the economy before the midterm elections.
But on Friday, Obama did it again, deliberately. The Martin case has laid bare racial tensions nationwide. And in speaking out, the President was taking real political risk.
When Zimmerman was acquitted a year later, Obama asked Americans to “honor Trayvon Martin” (who was shot while pounding Zimmerman’s head into the sidewalk.):
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”