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Obama calls Facebook Live attack ‘despicable,’ but says he’s optimistic about race relations

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In a new interview, President Obama has denounced what he called the “despicable” video on Facebook Live of what appears to be an assault on a mentally challenged white teenager by four young black people in Chicago. However, he said he does not believe racial tensions are getting worse.

Speaking with Chicago’s local CBS affiliate Thursday, the president pointed to the gruesome incident as an example of how technology is helping to draw attention to racial issues that have long existed below the surface.

“In part because we see visuals of racial tensions, violence and so forth because of smartphones and the Internet,” Obama told CBS 2’s Jay Levine, in one of five televised interviews he conducted with Chicago news stations. “What we have seen as surfacing, I think, are a lot of problems that have been there a long time.”

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks during an Armed Forces Full Honor Farewell Review for him, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)
President Obama pauses as he speaks during an Armed Forces Full Honor Farewell Review held for him on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)

Obama, who got his start in Chicago politics, elaborated on this argument in another interview with the local ABC News affiliate. Asked whether he thinks race relations in the United States have gotten worse in recent years, Obama again pointed to the “terrible” Facebook live video, as a result of which four young Chicagoans have been charged with hate crimes and several other criminal charges.

“Part of what technology allows us to see now is the terrible toll racism, discrimination and hate takes on families and communities,” he said. “We don’t benefit from pretending that racism doesn’t exist. … The fact that these things are surfacing means that we can solve them.”

The victim’s name has not been released, but police have identified the man as an 18-year-old from suburban Chicago who suffers from “mental health challenges” and was reported missing by his parents on Monday. His assailants reportedly shouted racially charged taunts during the assault, including “F*** Donald Trump, f*** white people!” while they held the young man captive in an apartment and physically abused him.

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