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Political world reacts to Obama’s 'Trayvon' moment

President Obama says he doubts whether any politician could play a major role in a national 'conversation' about race in America. But his remarks Friday about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin indicate otherwise.

By Staff writer / July 20, 2013

President Barack Obama speaks in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 19, 2013, about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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President Obama says he doubts whether he or any other politician could play a lead role in a national “conversation” about race in America today.

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“I haven't seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations,” he said at the White House Friday, an observation in the middle of his long, unscripted comments on the shooting death of Trayvon Martin – except that what he said certainly will be seen as a key moment in just such a conversation.

Five years into his presidency, Mr. Obama spoke movingly and at length about the case of an unarmed teenager killed by self-appointed neighborhood “watch” volunteer George Zimmerman, apparently suspicious of, following, and then ignoring the direction of a 911 police dispatcher to confront the black youth.

“There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me,” Obama said. “And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator.” (Obama's full speech here.)

The reaction to Obama’s 18-minute unannounced oration in the White House press room Friday came quickly and across the political spectrum.

“I’m glad he spoke up today,” Robert Zimmerman, George Zimmerman’s brother and a family spokesman told FOX News. “I think he was very sincere in his remarks.”

“No matter what your opinion of the verdict is, there have to be things that bring us together, there have to be teachable moments that we learn from what happened here,” Robert Zimmerman said.

Elsewhere on the conservative cable channel, the comments had a sharper edge.

Fox’s Sean Hannity suggests that the main reason Obama identifies with Trayvon is that the two as teenagers had smoked marijuana.

On Facebook, Fox News radio host Todd Starnes wrote that Obama’s comments about the Trayvon Martin shooting makes the president “Race-Baiter in Chief.”

“His remarks today on the Trayvon Martin tragedy are beyond reprehensible,” Starnes wrote.

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