Updated: Jimmy Kimmel scored President Obama’s first public comments about the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson; he said “there was no excuse for criminal acts.” “Obviously,” Obama said tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, “we don’t yet know what happened. Our thoughts and prayers are with the officers and their families, and thankfully, as you said, they’re going to be OK. … What was beautiful about Selma was reminding ourselves that real social change in this country so often has happened because ordinary people are willing in a nonviolent fashion to make their voices heard.”
Obama was, among other things, responding to comments made by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who suggested this morning in a radio interview that the president bore some responsibility for last night’s shooting of two Ferguson police officers, according to New York Daily News. “It all starts at the top. It’s the tone that’s set by the president,” Giuliani said, explaining that Obama ignores an “enormous amount of crime” committed by African-Americans. “It is the obligation of the president to explain … that our police are the best in the world.”
Obama told Kimmel: “There’s no excuse for criminal acts. Whoever fired those shots shouldn’t detract from the issue. They’re criminals. They need to be arrested. And then what we need to do is make sure that like-minded, good-spirited people on both sides, law enforcement who have a terrifically tough job, and people who understand they don’t want to be stopped and harassed because of their race, that we’re able to work together to try and come up with some good answers.
“What we have to make sure of is that the folks who disregard and disrespect the other side, people who resort to violence, that they’re marginalized.”
Kimmel chimed in, “They set us all back.”
“But they’re not the majority,” Obama responded. “And in the same way that you can’t generalize about police officers who do an extraordinarily tough job –overwhelmingly, they do it professionally — you can’t generalize about protesters who it turns out had some very legitimate grievances. The Justice Department report showed that they were being stopped, African-Americans were being stopped disproportionately, mainly so the city could raise money, even though these were unjust.”
Kimmel jumped in to complain about the parking tickets he gets in Los Angeles. “I get crazy when I get parking tickets I feel are unjust,” he said. “My wheels are not turned properly, and I feel like they’re just trying to make money off of me. They’re not obeying the spirit of the law.”
Deftly sidestepping Kimmel and his parking tickets — as well as the urge to clunk the late-night host on the head with a blunt object — Obama conintued: “What was happening in Ferguson was you had city government telling the Police Department: ‘Stop more people. We need to raise more money.’ Folks would get stopped. They’d get tickets. Then, they’d have to wait in line to pay it, take a day off work. Folks would lose their jobs. In some cases, they were thrown in jail because they didn’t have enough money for the fines. And then, they’d get fined for that. So there was a whole structure there, according to the Justice Department report, that indicated both racism and just a disregard for what law enforcement’s supposed to do.”
Obama also participated in one of Kimmel’s trademark Mean Tweets segments – “You should see what the Senate says about me,” he joked:
“You should see what the Senate says about me,” Obama joked.
It’s the first time Obama has sat down with ABC’s late-night host in person. Obama did Jimmy Kimmel Live! via satellite back in June 2008, when he was a mere senator from Illinois looking to become the leader of the free world.