FACT CHECK: Did Obama Not Condemn White Nationalists After The Charleston Shooting?

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

Former Bush administration Director of Black Outreach Paris Dennard claimed that in the wake of the 2015 deadly shooting of a black Charleston church, President Barack Obama “did not name [the shooter] and call him a domestic terrorist” on CNN Monday.

The statement was made during a heated exchange regarding President Donald Trump’s delay in condemning white supremacism after Saturday’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. During the rally, one woman was killed and dozens of others were injured amidst violence between white supremacist, Antifa (which stands for “Anti-Fascist”) and other groups.

Dennard prefaced his claim by arguing that Obama’s response “gives us context on what people do in this situation when it happens unexpectedly.” He continued, saying that Obama “did not call [the shooter] a neo-Nazi. He did not call him a white supremacist.” Dennard made similar remarks later that evening on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°.”

Verdict: True

Obama did not specifically mention white supremacy in his immediate remarks after the Charleston shooting. He did, however, mention race relations and gun rights.

Fact Check:

Obama did not identify nor condemn white supremacy during his remarks the day after the deadly June 2015 shooting. The incident attained national media attention after Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old self-identified white supremacist, shot and killed nine African Americans at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

Obama did not name Roof or the racist motivations in his speech, acknowledging that, “Until the investigation is complete, I’m necessarily constrained in terms of talking about the details of the case.” Roof was arrested shortly before Obama’s noon remarks, ABC News reported.

Although he did not mention or condemn white supremacy, Obama did acknowledge the racial aspects of the massacre. “The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history. This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked.”

Obama went on to praise the “outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love” from “all races” in the wake of the massacre.

Leaving aside white supremacism, Obama attributed blame to U.S. gun policies. “Once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun… we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

While the context of the two presidents’ remarks are open to interpretation and debate, Dennard’s assertion that Obama did not name the Charleston shooter or condemn the shooter’s white supremacist motivations in his immediate remarks is true.

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter

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