White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained during a press briefing on Wednesday why President Obama used the word “thugs” a day earlier while discussing recent violence in Baltimore.
Obama had criticized the violence that arose as protestors sought answers in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore resident who died from injuries sustained while in police custody.
CNN reporter Michelle Kosinski asked Earnest why Obama chose not to use the word during a radio interview on Wednesday in which he also discussed the situation in Baltimore.
“When the president did the interview with Steve Harvey that aired this morning, it was almost a repeat of his press conference yesterday except he left that word out,” Kosinski said. “So is that an indication that the administration feels that maybe that wasn’t the best use of terms yesterday?”
Earnest disputed the idea that Obama had deliberately avoided using the word, which carries racial connotations.
From Earnest’s answer:
No, I don’t think the President would in any way revise the remarks that he shared with all of you in the Rose Garden. The fact of the matter is the vast majority of people who were expressing their concern about the treatment of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody have done so in a responsible way. These are individuals, black and white, I would point out, that have, in the mind of the President, legitimate concerns. After all, that is exactly why the Department of Justice is reviewing the facts of that situation. I know that local officials are engaged in a review as well to determine what exactly happened and whether or not any misconduct occurred and whether criminal charges are necessary. I wouldn’t weigh in on that. That’s obviously gonna be a decision that’s made by independent prosecutors, as it should be.
But what’s also true and what did get the lion’s share of the coverage out of Baltimore were the actions of a small minority that were nothing short of criminal actions. And whether it’s arson, or, you know, the looting of a liquor store, those were, those were thuggish acts. And, I think the President felt it was important, and continues to think it’s important, to draw a clear distinction between those actions and the efforts of the vast majority of people in that community to draw attention to the legitimate concerns that they have about the treatment of Freddie Gray. And, what they perceive to be some broader problems that may exist, or well frankly that do exist in the relationship between some communities in Baltimore and the Baltimore Police Department.
When Kosinski reiterated her question about whether avoiding the use of the word “thugs” was deliberate, Earnest maintained it was not.
Watch the video below, courtesy of C-SPAN, starting at the 10:51 mark: