The White House has responded to questions being raised after Obama claimed in an interview with the New Republic magazine that he goes skeet shooting "all the time" at Camp David, by releasing on Saturday a photo of Obama firing at clay targets.
Obama's claim that he does target practice regularly came as the debate over his administration's proposed gun control laws heated up. Obama was attempting to allay fears of gun owners, particularly hunters and sportsmen, by portraying himself as a President who appreciates their concerns.
In an interview with The New Republic owned by Chris Hughes, Facebook co-founder, Franklin Foer, the magazine’s editor, asked if the president had ever fired a gun. Obama answered:
"Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time."
"The whole family?"
"Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there. And 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."
Obama's comment in the interview with The New Republic drew plenty of skepticism from gun advocates who viewed it as a belated attempt to portray himself as sympathetic to hunters even as he pushes for stricter gun control measures after the Newtown School tragedy. Some politicians, mostly conservatives, questioned the President's claim suggesting that there is no photographic evidence of his gun hobby. Some even said the President has never fired a gun in his life.
Obama's bragging that he does target practice regularly brought responses demanding evidence.
Pete Souza / The White House
Obama at target practice
The New York Times reports that on Saturday the White House moved to silence speculations by releasing a photograph of the President shooting on the range at Camp David in August. The photo shows Obama wearing protective glasses and ear-muffs, squinting down the the barrel of a shotgun. The photo was taken immediately after he pulled the trigger as the smoke coming from the gun shows.
According to The New York Times, the White House said the photo was taken on Obama’s 51st birthday, August 4.
Reuters reports that Obama's senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer, in a tweet that linked to the photo, said: "For all the ‘skeeters.'"
However, a single photo of the president at target practice is unlikely to satisfy skeptics who will argue that it does not give evidence that he practices target shooting as a regular hobby.
After news of Obama's skeet shooting "all the time" comment, U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, challenged Obama to a skeet-shooting contest. On Erin Burnett‘s show on CNN, Blackburn said:
"I think this is a relevant point of conversation. If he is a skeet shooter, why have we not heard of this? Why have we not seen photos? Why hasn't he referenced this at any point in time? As we have had this gun debate that is ongoing, you would have thought it would have a point of reference... I tell you what I do think — I think he should invite me to Camp David, and I’ll go skeet shooting with him. I bet I’ll beat him... I’ll challenge him to skeet shooting. It’s a great hobby, and I would hope that the president does enjoy it."CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, later asked White House press secretary Jay Carney how often the president goes skeet shooting. Carney answered cautiously: "I would refer you simply to his comments. I don’t know how often. He does go to Camp David with some regularity, but I’m not sure how often he’s done that."
When he was asked why no one had seen a photo of the president shooting at Camp David, Carney said: "Because when he goes to Camp David, he goes to spend time with his family and friends and relax, not to produce photographs."
The Washington Post reports that meanwhile, the National Rifle Association has dismissed the photo as irrelevant to the ongoing debate over gun control. Spokesman for the organization Andrew Arulanandam, said: "One picture does not erase a lifetime of supporting every gun ban and every gun-control scheme imaginable."
The Washington Post also reports that an official of the National Skeet Shooting Association said the photo suggests Obama is a novice. Michael Hampton, executive director of the association, said: "This isn’t something he’s done very often because of how he’s standing, how he has the gun mounted."
Hampton said Obama’s claim that goes “skeet shooting all the time” would have been more credible if he had made the claim much earlier than at the height of the gun control debate.
Do you think Obama was exaggerating?