Carney declines to say if FRC shooting was a ‘hate crime’

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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White House spokesman Jay Carney got just two questions on Thursday from reporters about the Wednesday shooting attack at the Family Research Council, and responded with a boilerplate answer.

President Barack Obama “was very concerned about the victim, the person who was shot, and made clear to me and I conveyed this to the pool, that he firmly believes that violence of that kind has no place in our society and this goes to the greater discussion we’ve had about violence in America and the need to tackle it on multiple fronts,” said Carney.

When asked if the president considers the attack a “hate crime,” Carney replied, “those determinations are made by the FBI.”

Under federal law, attacks motivated by dislike of a religion can be treated as a “hate crime” in which extra penalties can be imposed on the attackers.

Progressives, including Obama, support the concept of “hate crimes.” In contrast, conservatives, including the FRC, have generally opposed the notion of “hate crimes,” and have argued that questions of guilt and punishment should be separated from the motivation of the criminals. (RELATED: FRC president: SPLC gave gunman ‘a license to shoot’)

Carney’s low-key response contrasts to the administration’s high-profile response to the January 2011 shooting of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson.

Six people were murdered in that attack, and Giffords survived after being shot in the head.

A few hours after the Tucson attack, Obama gave a short statement from the White House’s State Dining Room, where he described the shooting as “an unspeakable act.”

Four days later, Obama headlined a memorial event in Tucson, and called for civility.

“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do, it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that — that heals, not in a way that wounds,” Obama said.

“We should be civil because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations,” said the president in his widely televised address.

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