President Biden was criticized Monday for his response to the Nashville school shooting after he joked that he only made a public appearance because he heard there would be ice cream before discussing the tragedy that claimed the lives of three adults and three children at an elementary school earlier in the day.
“My name is Joe Biden. I’m Dr. Jill Biden’s husband,” Biden said from the White House’s East Room in his first public appearance since a 28-year-old woman shot and killed three students and three teachers at a Christian private school in Nashville. “I eat Jeni’s ice cream — chocolate chip. I came down because I heard there was chocolate chip ice cream,” he continued. “By the way, I have a whole refrigerator full upstairs,” he added. “You think I’m kidding? I’m not,” Biden told the crowd.
Biden later called the shooting “sick” and “heartbreaking” while demanding Congress do more to “stop the gun violence.” But critics went after the president for the inappropriate reaction and seemingly playful tone while addressing the tragedy.
“To say that he misunderstood the moment would be an understatement,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told Fox News later Monday. “You know, the president is watching, you’d hope before he comes down there, the awful scenes from the shooting and the reactions of family members and friends of people in that school. And to be coming down, joking about the fact that he’s Jill Biden’s husband and looking for chocolate chip ice cream is hardly the way to start it,” Christie said.
“There’s no way to talk about something like this except to say that for all of us who are parents, what we dread every day is the news about the health and life of our children,” he added. “And so there’s no room to joke in that circumstance at all. And certainly not from the President of the United States.”
Authorities say a female shooter wielding two “assault-style” rifles and a pistol killed three students and three adults at The Covenant School, a Presbyterian school for about 200 students from preschool through sixth grade. The shooter was identified as Audrey Elizabeth Hale, a Nashville resident who identified as transgender. Hale died after being shot by police following the violence. Police said she was once a student at the school.
Biden said he hopes the tragedy will inspire Congress to pass an assault weapons ban similar to the ban he helped pass in 1994. That law enacted a 10-year ban on the manufacture, transfer or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” and “large capacity ammunition feeding devices.” It formally expired on Sept. 13, 2004.
Christie said the president committed the “second-worst thing to do” in a circumstance like this one by invoking the political card while parents and students across the country grapple with the impact of the horrific shooting.
“It’s not about playing politics,” Christie told Fox News host Martha MacCallum on “The Story.” “The second-worst thing to do after making a joke on a day like today is to play politics with it. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the president did. He went back to the old playbook.”
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