National security adviser Robert O’Brien on Sunday denied in an interview on CNN that systemic racism exists across the nation’s police forces, arguing instead that “a few bad apples” give the impression of racism among law enforcement officers.
“No, I don’t think there’s systemic racism. I think 99.9% of our law enforcement officers are great Americans. Many of them are African American, Hispanic, Asian, they’re working the toughest neighborhood, they’ve got the hardest jobs to do in this country and I think they’re amazing, great Americans,” O’Brien told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” when asked if systemic racism was a problem for police agencies.
O’Brien added that there are “some bad apples in there. There are some bad cops who are racist. There are cops that maybe don’t have the right straining.”
“There is no doubt that there are some racist police, I think they’re the minority, I think they’re the few bad apples and we need to root them out,” he said.
The comments from O’Brien come as protests against racism and police violence have taken place across the country in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. The official claimed the violence that has broken out in some cities is being driven by “militants,” and said he had not seen reports that white supremacists had inflamed tensions in some instances. He also maintained that President Donald Trump and the White House support peaceful demonstrations.
The protests were sparked by the killing last week of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Protesters say they want to see charges for all four police officers involved in Floyd’s death. So far, officials have only charged the officer who was seen in a video with his knee on Floyd’s neck with third-degree murder and manslaughter – but protesters and critics believe the charge isn’t harsh enough.
Although the protesters are calling for justice in Floyd’s case in cities across the country, they are also seeking to draw attention to a number of recent high-profile cases in which African American men and women died at the hands of police officers, including Eric Garner and Mike Brown.
Appearing later on the same program, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker struck a decidedly different tone, telling Tapper that “black people in communities all across this country live in fear of the police.”
“What we see manifesting right now is not just a reaction to a live or caught-on-tape murder but a deep wound within our society, within our body politic that are festering in our country and must be addressed,” said Booker, who represents New Jersey.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, similarly spoke last week about the “constant anxiety and trauma” experienced by black people in America when talking about Floyd’s killing.
“Imagine if every time your husband or son, wife or daughter left the house, you feared for their safety from bad actors and bad police,” Biden said.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan and Sarah Mucha contributed to this report.