Earnest on Obama Reaction to Texas Attack: 'No Form of Expression That Would Justify Act of Violence'
The White House has issued no official statement on the terrorist attack in Garland, Texas, last night, but press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today "there is no act of expression, even if it’s offensive, that justifies an act of violence."
Earnest spoke aboard Air Force One as President Obama headed to New York for remarks at Lehman College, his eighth appearance on David Letterman, and a DNC event at a private residence.
“The president was informed last night of the violence outside Dallas," Earnest said of the two gunmen claiming ISIS loyalty who opened fire outside a Muhammad cartoon contest.
Both gunmen were shot to death by a police officer after they wounded a security guard, who has since been released from the hospital. One has been identified as Elton Simpson of Phoenix, who was flagged by the FBI in 2010 for trying to join jihad in Somalia and more recently for tweeting on behalf of the Islamic State.
Earnest said Obama "was informed last night of the violence outside Dallas."
“We have seen extremists try to use expressions that they considered to be offensive as a way to justify violence not only in this country but around the world, and in the mind of the president there is no form of expression that would justify an act of violence," he said, according to the White House pool report.
“We saw a pretty important and notable display of bravery on the part of first responders and …because of their courage the only person that was injured by these gunmen was a security officer."
Lawmakers have also been slow to respond to the violence. One local congressman tweeted his reaction: "My thoughts and prayers go out to all those in attendance and affected by the shooting at today's Mohammed Art Exhibit in Garland," Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a statement, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Garland community and all those affected by last night’s shooting. Quite simply, an attack on free speech is an attack on all Americans. I want to thank Garland law enforcement and all agencies involved for ensuring a bad situation did not become much, much worse.”