Virginia Republican lieutenant gubernatorial nominee E.W. Jackson on Tuesday criticized President Obama for “racializing” the Trayvon Martin shooting and distracting from the problem of epidemic violence among young people in the United States.
Jackson was interviewed on WMAL’s Mornings on the Mall radio program following Obama’s impromptu press conference, when the country’s first black president weighed in on the Martin case and George Zimmerman verdict. Obama told reporters he could’ve been Trayvon Martin, and shared his experiences of being racially profiled.
Obama also raised the question of whether so-called “stand your ground” laws in effect in dozens of states across the country — including Virginia — were helpful or harmful to society.
Zimmerman, then 28, was acquitted last week in the March 2012 shooting an unarmed,17-year-old Martin during a confrontation that turned physical in a Sanford, Fla., neighborhood. The verdict has sparked outrage and protests across the country, particularly in the African-American community.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows stark racial divisions over the verdict. Jackson — the first African American nominated by the Virginia GOP for statewide office since 1988 — was asked Tuesday if he shared the president’s view that he, too, could’ve been Trayvon Martin.
Jackson declined to answer that question specifically, but added that he didn’t like that the president “racialized” the incident.
“I don’t think it was racial at all,” Jackson said. “It’s a tragic situation. I feel for those parents. But there’s no indication whatsoever that any of this was the result of race or, by the way, that stand your ground had anything to do with it. What we do have is young people dying by the thousands every year in this country and we would rather obsess on this particular case. . . rather than deal with the real problem: the epidemic of violence that is taking the lives of young people.”
Jackson added that part of the solution is “to begin to rebuild the family.”
“We’ve got to. . . start thinking of ourselves as Americans, see these problems as American problems,” said Jackson, who declared to a cheering audience at the Republican nominating convention in May that he was “not an African-American,” but “an American.”
“I certainly intend to go into these communities where at-risk youth are. . . and talk to them about the need for being married before you have children, stop treating your bodies as sexual objects, for men to stay in the home and raise the children that they father,” he continued. “In my view, that’s where the problem really lies.”
In the same interview, Jackson also said he is praying for Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his family amid allegations that McDonnell accepted more than $140,000 in gifts and loans from a prominent donor and Star Scientific chief executive officer Jonnie R. Williams Sr.
“I think it’s tragic when people find themselves in this kind of morass,” Jackson said, though he declined to say what he thinks McDonnell should do next.
“I don’t have any idea what the facts are,” Jackson said. “I intend to abide by the highest ethical and moral standards. That’s what I’m focused on, trying that I conduct myself in a way that always makes the citizens of Virginia proud of me.”
Asked, “Would you welcome Gov. McDonnell on the campaign trail?” Jackson speculated that his candidacy is likely not a priority.
“I think frankly, right now, Governor McDonnell has his hands full and I think he ought to deal with those problems,” Jackson answered.
The host chuckled.