Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday pressed President Barack Obama over his support for law enforcement following recent violence involving police, telling the president "words matter" in his responses to such incidents.
In a town hall discussion organized by ABC, Patrick asked Obama to "consider being careful when there is an incident not being too quick to condemn the police without due process until the facts are known."
"I have been unequivocal in condemning any rhetoric directed at police officers, so I think you’d have to find any message that did not include a very strong support for law enforcement in all my utterances dating back to Ferguson," Obama replied, referring to the Missouri city where an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer in 2014. "Because I rely on law enforcement to protect me and my family just like everybody."
"So I appreciate the sentiment," Obama added. "I think it’s already been expressed. But I’ll be happy to send it to you in case you missed it."
The roughly nine-minute exchange came in the wake of the shooting last week at a protest in Dallas that left five police officers dead and seven wounded. Patrick courted controversy after the shooting when he called demonstrators "hypocrites" for seeking protection from the same police they were protesting, a remark for which the lieutenant governor has since expressed some regret.
On Thursday evening, Patrick appeared less than satisfied with Obama's answer to his initial question, which included an unaddressed request to put blue lights on the White House as a way of expressing solidarity with law enforcement.
"Mr. President, I know you have" expressed support for police, Patrick said. "I just want them to know it in their heart.”
Obama went on note that data shows there are disparities in how police treated people of different races, and that pointing out those disparities should not be viewed as anti-police. "That's what I've tried to express," Obama told Patrick.
Obama did find common ground with Patrick, saying he agrees protesters should be peaceful. "It's counterproductive if you're not," Obama said.
Obama wound down his exchange with Patrick on an optimistic note, reiterating his belief that the country is not as divided as it seems.
"Nobody’s more hopeful than me," Obama told Patrick shortly before he sat back down in the front row. "I’m Mr. Hopeful when it comes to these issues."
Patrick did not seem entirely pleased with the town hall, which was taped Thursday afternoon and aired in the evening. Later Thursday night, his office issued a statement saying ABC broadcast a "highly edited version" of the event.