Obama "shocked and outraged" by Tiller murder

The president puts out a statement on the killing of the controversial abortion provider

Published May 31, 2009 11:15PM (EDT)

President Obama has weighed in on the murder of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller. In a statement released Sunday evening, Obama said, "I am shocked and outraged by the murder of Dr. George Tiller as he attended church services this morning. However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence."

It's somewhat interesting to see that the White House put out this statement under the president's name. Though he often officially weighs in on tragic events like the shooting in Binghamton, N.Y. last month or the plane crash near Buffalo back in February, when there's an issue the political team would rather not have Obama's name on, at least not directly, statements go out through someone like Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Obviously, the act of condemning a murder is generally uncontroversial -- or at least it should be. But the abortion issue is always fraught with controversy, and may affect two important fights for the administration in the near future: The confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and the passage of healthcare reform. So in some cases the White House may simply prefer not to have Obama himself wade in to the fray.

Not everyone is so outraged by what happened to Tiller as he went to church Sunday morning. Randall Terry, a prominent and quite radical opponent of abortion who founded Operation Rescue, called the doctor "a mass murderer" and said, "We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God." (Operation Rescue's current president, Troy Newman, said the news of Tiller's murder was "disturbing," adding, "Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning.")

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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