FACT CHECK

White House mum on Obama's skeet-shooting claim

2013-02-01T00:00:00Z White House mum on Obama's skeet-shooting claimThe Washington Post The Washington Post Arizona Daily Star
February 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The New Republic: "Have you ever fired a gun?"

President Obama: "Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time."

New Republic: "The whole family?"

Obama: "Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there. And I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake."

- from an interview published Jan. 27

A number of readers have raised questions about the president's statement that he goes skeet shooting "all the time" while at Camp David. In these suspicious times, they would like to see some evidence.

But the White House has been oddly silent about the matter.

On Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said he did know how often the president has gone skeet shooting and that he has not seen a photograph.

"When he goes to Camp David, he goes to spend time with his family and friends and relax, not to produce photographs," Carney told reporters.

Then, on Wednesday, Carney tersely said he had no response to a challenge from Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., for a skeet-shooting contest with the president.

A White House official was emailed Tuesday and then Carney twice on Wednesday asking for the name of an Obama guest at Camp David who could confirm the president's account. (The White House does not publicly release the names of guests.) The Post received no response.

Here is what is known.

In skeet shooting, participants use shotguns to hit clay disks that are automatically flung into the air, in an effort to simulate bird hunting.

An interesting blog about Camp David, in a post from 2010, reports that many presidents have enjoyed skeet shooting at the rustic retreat. The blog also displays overhead images over the years showing that the skeet range is near the helicopter pad.

The Post searched high and low through hundreds of news reports to see if there was ever any other mention of Obama engaged in skeet shooting.

The Post found that Obama, in a weekly radio address in 2012, congratulated Kim Rhode on becoming "the first American to win individual medals in five straight Olympics with her gold in skeet shooting" and Army Sgt. Vincent Hancock for a second skeet gold.

But when the Olympic athletes later visited the White House, Obama did not make a reference to having attempted skeet shooting.

The Post also could not find evidence that Obama ever tried skeet shooting before he became president.

The evidence suggests that until Obama had access to a shooting range as president, he never went skeet shooting. He certainly did not speak like a politician who had once used a firearm.

But it is also curious that the White House refuses to provide any documentary evidence that he actually used the shooting range at Camp David, since he claims he uses it "all the time," or that a presidential friend has not come forward to confirm the president's comments.

The president lives in a media fishbowl. That's the way it is. In the meantime, the Post does not have enough information to make a ruling one way or the other.

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