Conservatives expressed fury today that President Obama joked about the death of Anontin Scalia, the Supreme Court justice
Addressing the National Governors Association at the White House yesterday, Obama talked about some of the downsides of being a lame duck.
‘Some of you might be in the final year of your last term,’ working as hard as you can to get as much done as possible for the folks that you represent: fixing roads, educating our children, helping people retrain, appointing judges,’ Obama uttered, adding a dramatic pause. ‘The usual stuff.’
The pause was filled with laughter coming from the governors sitting in the room.
Red State, the conservative website, described the president’s joke as ‘zero respect’.
The video adds salt to the wound that Obama opened by not attending the late justice’s funeral on Saturday.
Vice President Joe Biden attended the funeral instead of the commander-in-chief, who went to the Supreme Court on Friday to pay his respects.
The White House explained to the New York Times that the decision was partially based on the ‘potential for the extensive presidential security detail to be disruptive’.
Instead he was pictured on Friday with a binder of background reports on potential nominees – before Scalia was even buried.
The president also didn’t do himself any favors when reporters found out that he was golfing on Sunday, a favorite leisure activity of the president’s that generally gets him in trouble with conservatives.
The decision not to go to the funeral had been criticized by members of the Italian-American community.
Justice Scalia was the first Italian-American on the Supreme Court when he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
Philip Fogalia, the vice president of the Italian-American museum, said Italian-Americans take paying respects at funerals ‘very seriously’.
‘Justice Scalia was a milestone for the community,’ he told the New York Post. ‘The president’s absence was disappointing and ill-advised.’
Legal expert Eugene Volokh, writing for the Washington Post, suggested that the joke wasn’t aimed at Scalia, but instead the rather painful process of trying to get a Supreme Court pick through the U.S. Senate – as evidenced by today’s news that Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be holding no hearing, nor a vote, on Obama’s SCOTUS pick.
‘This strikes me as not at all in bad taste,’ Volokh, a UCLA School of Law professor, wrote. ‘The president wasn’t saying anything snide or even critical about the late justice, or mocking the justice’s views or accomplishments (which would indeed have been bad manners, in one government official publicly speaking about another who had recently died).’
‘He was engaging in some mild graveyard humor about an upcoming unpleasant political process,’ Volokh continued.
‘And that the process was occasioned by someone’s death (more than a week earlier) doesn’t make such humor inappropriate,’ Volokh added.
This article originally appeared on the Daily Mail.