Carney: Obama never 'pretended' he grew up as an avid hunter

The White House decided to release a photo of the president skeet shooting because of “persistent questions” after President Obama in an interview said he had engaged in skeet shooting at Camp David “all the time.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney downplayed Obama’s initial remarks, saying the president wasn’t trying to overstate his use of guns and insisting Obama had “never pretended or suggested” that he grew up as a hunter or marksman.

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“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 told reporters on Air Force One Monday, as Obama traveled to Minnesota to deliver remarks on gun control. “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,” Carney added. “But there were persistent questions about this, and we decided to release a photo of the president shooting at Camp David.”

The questions on Obama's skeet shooting activities began last week, after Obama told The New Republic that he had started a new hobby while visiting Camp David.

“Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time,” Obama said in the interview. "Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there."

The answer prompted skepticism, with one lawmaker challenging Obama to a skeet shooting contest and observers questioning whether he really enjoyed the hobby as much as his comments suggested. Some questioned whether Obama had ever done skeet shooting, which prompted the White House to release the photo Saturday, using the term “skeeters” to compare critics to “birthers,” who question whether Obama was born in Hawaii.

On Monday, Carney would not answer questions on whether Obama preferred skeet or trap, but he offered that the president “has gotten better” at shooting.

He said Obama, who grew up in Hawaii and has “spent time in California, Chicago and Cambridge” has “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.”

Asked if Obama owns any firearms, Carney responded, “Not that I'm aware of.”