The President was telling the truth about his shooting experience, says Press Secretary, and not claiming to be a hunter or sport shooting expert...
After the White House on Saturday released a photo of President Obama shooting a rifle at the target range at Camp David last year on his birthday, Press Secretary Jay Carney today fielded questions about the topic from reporters aboard Air Force One as the President traveled to Minnesota to deliver remarks about his gun control proposals and meet with local law enforcement officials.
The White House released the photo after President Obama, when asked if he had ever fired a gun, told The New Republic during an interview published on Jan. 27 that "Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time."
"The fact is the president was asked a question--did not volunteer, but was asked a question about whether or not he had ever shot a weapon," Carney said.
"He answered with the truth, which is that he has enjoyed shooting competitively with friends at Camp David on multiple occasions. I think it’s fair to say that we believed that would’ve been answer enough -- and what I said from the podium that as a rule we don’t treat his private time at Camp David with friends and family as matters for public consumption, that’s the truth, as you know."
"But there were persistent questions about this and we decided to release a photo of the president shooting at Camp David."
The caption with the released photo read "President Barack Obama shoots clay targets on the range at Camp David." Asked whether President Obama shoots skeet or trap, Carney said:
"You know, I am not an expert, and I don’t think he would claim to be either. What I can tell you is that he has enjoyed competing with friends up there at Camp David. As you probably know, the president likes competition of all kinds."
Asked whether President Obama is good at shooting, Carney said: "I think he has gotten better."
"But here’s the thing to understand: The president has made clear he grew up in Hawaii, he’s spent time in California, Chicago and Cambridge. He never pretended to or suggested that he had grown up as a hunter or engaging in sports activities with weapons. He simply said that he had, and this is the truth, that he had enjoyed shooting at Camp David. That’s a fact."
President Obama told TNR "I
have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back
in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out
of hand make a big mistake."
Carney said that the photo was "not the only time he shot a weapon," but was not sure whether President Obama had gone shooting before becoming president. Asked whether President Obama personally owns any firearms, Carney said, "Not that I’m aware of."
The photo caused an internet sensation on Saturday, with White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer and former Senior Advisor David Plouffe taking to twitter to challenge disbelievers. Plouffe channeled Clint Eastwood as he called skeptic "skeet birthers," tweeting the photo with "Attn skeet birthers. Make our day - let the photoshop conspiracies begin!"
After the topic trended on Twitter with the hashtags #skeetgate and #NextWhiteHousePhoto, Plouffe tweeted "Day
made. The skeet birthers are out in full force in response to POTUS
pic. Makes for most excellent, delusional reading. #whereistrump."
Carney previously answered questions about the President's gun shooting claim at last Monday's daily press briefing, when he said he was not aware of any photos of the President shooting a gun.
President Obama landed at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport at 11:56 AM Central time. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken traveled with President Obama aboard Air Force One. In Minneapolis, President Obama was scheduled to deliver remarks and meet with with local leaders and law enforcement
at the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center.
*Photo by Pete Souza/White House, taken at Camp David on August 4, 2012