President Barack Obama called for the “vulgar and divisive” rhetoric in the 2016 election to stop during the annual St. Patrick’s Day lunch Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
“I know I’m not the only one in this room who may be more than a little dismayed about what’s happening on the campaign trail lately,” Obama said. “We have heard vulgar and divisive rhetoric aimed at women and minorities, and Americans who don’t look like us or pray like us or vote like we do.”
Obama noted there have been “misguided attempts” to shut down the offensive rhetoric, perhaps in a thinly-veiled hint to the violent protests at campaign rallies for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump cancelled a rally in Chicago last week after crowds of protesters showed up.
“We’ve seen misguided attempts to shut down that speech. However offensive it may be we live in a country where free speech is one of the most important rights that we hold,” Obama said. “In response to those attempts, we’ve seen actual violence and we’ve heard silence from too many of our leaders.”
Obama said he appreciated House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) comments on the subject. Ryan has publicly admonished Trump’s message, even though he said Tuesday that he would support the GOP nominee, whomever it may be.
“But too often we’ve accepted this as somehow the new normal and it’s worth asking ourselves what each of us may have done to contribute to this kind of vicious atmosphere in our politics,” Obama continued. “I suspect that all of us can recall some intemperate words that we regret. Certainly I can.”
“And while some may be more to blame than others for the current climate, all of us are responsible for reversing it,” he added. “For it is a cycle that is not an accurate reflection of America. And it has to stop.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 15, 2016