WASHINGTON -- Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is laying the blame for the shooting of two New York City police officers at the feet of President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), saying that they have created an anti-police atmosphere that encouraged shooter Ismaaiyl Brinsley.
"This climate is attracting the mad men in society and also giving a legitimacy to these violent protesters," said King during an interview Monday morning on Fox News, also noting that he did not think Obama and de Blasio were fostering such an atmosphere intentionally.
The congressman then added that it was now up to the two Democratic officials to say something nice about the police, which would help heal race relations in the United States.
"Right now I think it's important for the president and the mayor, if they are serious about healing what they believe is this rift -- or this feud if you will, this chasm, in race relations -- for them to come out and start giving praise to the police," said King. "Say the police have done more to save minority lives than anyone in this country. The police do a phenomenal job under tough circumstances. Yes, there can be improvement. There also has to be improvement among the leaders in the minority communities."
Brinsley shot his former girlfriend in Maryland before heading up to New York and killing NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. Before his rampage, Brinsley put a photo on Instagram, threatening to put "wings on pigs today" and adding the hashtags that have been used to support Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men whose deaths at the hands of police officers have sparked national protests in recent months.
It seems unlikely that King's suggested solution will heal racial tensions in America. After all, Obama and de Blasio have repeatedly praised the hard work of police officers and spoken out against retaliatory violence. They have also, however, acknowledged grievances from protesters, many of them in the black community, who often feel unfairly targeted by law enforcement. King's remarks, on the other hand, seem to imply that the gap has been created by only one side.
Immediately after a grand jury decided on Nov. 24 not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, Obama urged calm and restraint from both the protesters and the police. He also praised the hard work of police officers:
Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law. As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work with the community, not against the community, to distinguish the handful of people who may use the grand jury’s decision as an excuse for violence -- distinguish them from the vast majority who just want their voices heard around legitimate issues in terms of how communities and law enforcement interact.
On Dec. 1, after Obama met with law enforcement, civil rights activists and faith leaders about how communities can better work with law enforcement, he made similar comments:
We also heard law enforcement and were reminded of what a tough job it is to be in law enforcement. Whether you’re in a big city or in a small community, as Eric Holder put it, police officers have the right to come home. And if they’re in dangerous circumstances, we have to be able to put ourselves in their shoes and recognize that they do have a tough job. I don’t think those realities are irreconcilable.
During a Dec. 5 interview with BET, Obama also praised police officers who have to do a "really tough job":
The vast majority of law enforcement officers are doing a really tough job, and most of them are doing it well and are trying to do the right thing. But a combination of bad training, in some cases; a combination in some cases of departments that really are not trying to root out biases, or tolerate sloppy police work; a combination in some cases of folks just not knowing any better, and in a lot of cases, subconscious fear of folks who look different -- all of this contributes to a national problem that’s going to require a national solution.
On Dec. 4, de Blasio praised the NYPD for how it dealt with peaceful protests after the Garner grand jury decision:
Overwhelmingly, the demonstrations were peaceful, and I want to say, the response by the NYPD was exactly the right one. It was smart, it was strategic, it was agile -- a lot of restraint was shown. When necessary, arrests were made. But you saw a very peaceful night in New York City. Despite the frustration and the pain that so many people are feeling, you saw a peaceful protest. You saw a minimum of disruption. I give credit to everyone involved, but I particularly give credit to the NYPD for having managed the situation so appropriately. ... All of us have such respect for the work our police do. It's the basis, again, of a democratic society that our police keep order, and allow a democratic society to function.
De Blasio also cautioned protesters to remain peaceful after meeting with Justice League NYC on Dec. 19:
This is what our democracy allows for, is people to make their voices heard peacefully, in an organized way -- and that’s what this group and others have been doing. I made very clear that we cannot accept any violence against our police officers or against anyone.
In addition to Obama and de Blasio, some conservatives have also been blaming Attorney General Eric Holder for fanning the flames that led to the shooting of Liu and Ramos. On Saturday, former New York Gov. George Pataki (R) tweeted, "Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder & #mayordeblasio. #NYPD."
But de Blasio has been feeling the anger most directly. Pat Lynch, the president of the largest police union in New York City, said "the office of the mayor" had "blood" on its hands. A group of NYPD officers turned their backs on de Blasio when he visited the hospital where Liu and Ramos were taken.
On Sunday, however, a relative of Ramos said the mayor would be welcome both at the funeral and at the family's home.
During a press conference Monday, de Blasio asked New Yorkers to thank a police officer, and he also called for a halt on protests until the officers are laid to rest.
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