WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Thursday called the video showing four African-Americans torturing a white mentally disabled man in Chicago “despicable.”
“What we have seen as surfacing, I think, are a lot of problems that have been there a long time,” Obama told CBS2 Chicago. “Whether it’s tensions between police and communities, hate crimes of the despicable sort that has just now recently surfaced on Facebook.”
The Facebook video has focused a spotlight on crime in Chicago in advance of Obama’s Tuesday return to his adopted hometown to deliver his farewell address at McCormick Place.
Obama discussed the video beating and Chicago’s soaring murder rate and violence in interviews at the White House with reporters from five Chicago television stations. This was the first time in eight years that Obama has talked to local television reporters based in Chicago.
Obama told ABC7 Chicago is a “strange exception” to a national crime trend.
“Ironically, what you’ve seen across the country is actually historically low rates of violence in our cities,” he said.
“There are a lot of factors around that. But what I intend to do is to build off of some of the work that has been in done in other cities to intervene in violence, provide better support for youth that are at risk, and my presidential center and me personally, this is something where we want to join those who are intent on doing something about this. I want to be a part of the solution.”
Obama told WGN he is “frustrated” about Chicago crime. “These are communities I know and love and there are so many good people there,” he said.
Obama told NBC5 Chicago there was no one cause – or one answer to Chicago violence. “What is it about Chicago that has created an increase in homicides that we are just not seeing around the country?” Obama said. Gangs, the way police are allocated, the availability of guns and “pockets of poverty” all contribute, the president said.
The Cook County state’s attorney on Thursday filed hate crime charges against the four for the beating of the 18-year-old.
They also face charges of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, according to the state’s attorney’s office.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said it was “too early to tell” if the Justice Department would get involved.