POLITICS

Obama Has Some Regrets About Ferguson Response

The president spoke to GQ about what he wished he'd done differently.

11/17/2015 01:45 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2015

President Barack Obama has some regrets about how the White House responded in the wake of the Ferguson protests.

In an interview with Bill Simmons in GQ, Obama said that there was a delay in how quickly the White House was able to respond to the unrest, which erupted in the Missouri town after a Darren Wilson, a white police officer, killed Michael Brown, a black unarmed teen, in August 2014.

"When Ferguson happened, there was a gap between how quickly we could pull together a police task force, recommendations. And so in that lag, it feels as if I haven’t spoken to the moment as effectively," he said. "I suspect that if I were to do it over again, there might be something I could say that would’ve crystallized it more effectively. But Ferguson—the case itself was tougher because people didn’t know what was going on exactly. In some ways the [Eric] Garner case in New York was clearer because you had on videotape exactly what had happened."

After Wilson shot Brown, Obama called the incident "heartbreaking" and urged Americans to remember him through "reflection and understanding."

Obama also said that his public outrage wouldn't have done much to improve the relationship between police and different communities.

"You know, the challenge of Ferguson and all issues related to police shootings, race, and the criminal-justice system is that in order to actually get something done, you have to build consensus. Expressing simple outrage without follow-up is often counterproductive," he told GQ, adding that he did not want to compromise a federal investigation at the time.

Obama also called his response to Trayvon Martin's death an "honest response as a father that I think resonated with a lot of people. After Martin's death in 2012, the president famously said, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

After a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson last year, which led to more protests, Obama disputed the suggestion that he was being too passive on the issue.

"I want my children to be seen as the individuals that they are, and I want them to be judged by the content of their character," he said last year. "I'm being pretty explicit about my concern. I'm being pretty explicit about the fact that this is a systemic problem," he said.

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Ferguson Photos by Scott Olson
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