Killing of Australian baseball player roils race, violence debate

The White House was pressed Wednesday about whether President Obama will weigh in on the death of Chris Lane, an Australian baseball player allegedly killed Friday by three teenagers.

Commentators on the right have sought to draw a connection between Lane and Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager killed in 2012 during a fight with George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who suspected Martin was an intruder.

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Police said the three teenagers involved in Lane’s killing allegedly acted out of summer boredom. Lane’s killing in Duncan, Okla., “sounds like a pretty tragic case,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. But he refused to go further, citing the legal process.

“Any act of violence is something that the president, I think, himself has spoken pretty eloquently about violence in our communities,” Earnest said Wednesday. “And he stood at this podium a few weeks ago where he talked about his concern about the impact that violence is having on in particular young people in this country.”

Pressed further by a Fox News reporter about why Obama spoke personally about Martin verdict but had not yet weighed in on Lane's death, Earnest noted that Obama’s lengthy comments about race and violence in regards to Martin came after a court verdict.

He also said Obama “expressed his concerns about the impact of violence in communities all across the country.”

Martin, who was unarmed, was on his way to his father’s when he was killed. After a trial that riveted the nation, Zimmerman was found not guilty earlier this year by a jury that concluded he acted in self defense.

Some on the right have been using the shooting to criticize the left, saying that the reaction to Lane’s death has been far more muted than the reaction to Martin’s shooting.

The disparity, some suggest, is racially based: Lane was white and at least two of the teenagers arrested for his killing are black, while Martin was black and Zimmerman's parents were white and Peruvian.

"Fox and Friends," a morning program on Fox News, blasted what it saw as a muted reaction among liberals to the shooting.

“Right now, we’re going to go to a live shot of [the Revs.] Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton,” co-host Brian Kilmeade said, cutting to a blank screen and the sound of crickets.

“Oh, wait, we don’t have it,” said guest reporter Anna Kooiman. “Why don’t we have it? Because they haven’t come forward and said anything. Are they going to? Will they? And should they?”

“I wonder when celebrities are going to put on ‘I Am Chris Lane’ T-shirts?”co-host Steve Doocy said, alluding to the phrase “I am Trayvon Martin,” which was adopted by protesters outraged by Martin's killing, “Or is there once again, as we have talked about many times, a double standard regarding things like this?”

Former Republican Representative Allen West criticized President Obama’s silence in a tweet Tuesday afternoon:

Both West and the "Fox and Friends" hosts made reference to Lane being killed by "three black teenagers;" this belief appeared to be based on early images published of the suspects which used an erroneous picture for suspect Michael Jones, portraying him as black when he is actually white.

Former CNN contributor Roland Martin said there was no comparison between the Lane and Martin incidents because people were arrested quickly after Lane’s killing.

He also criticized Fox and Friends for playing up the story.

Journalist Zerlina Maxwell offered a similar argument:

Lane’s death has sparked outrage in his home country of Australia, where Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer called for a boycott of the United States due to its level of gun violence. The U.S. State Department did not comment on a possible boycott but did say on Tuesday that it was “deeply saddened” by Lane’s death. Despite the accusation by "Fox and Friends" of being silent, the Rev. Jackson did tweet on Wednesday morning that he is praying for Lane’s family and calling for justice to prevail: