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With the Charleston church shootings hanging over the country like a malignant cloud, President Barack Obama spoke extensively at an intimate Los Angeles fundraiser about his personal grief over the mass killings that took the lives of two of his friends and seven other people.
“Obviously it was a hard day and everyone was acutely aware of it,” said one person who attended a “round table” discussion at producer Chuck Lorre’s house in the Pacific Palisades.
According to another attendee, Obama told the group: “This shooting is incredibly personal, and I’ve done this too much as president. Look, we’ve got to go back to the base of the issue and we have to fight it until it’s fixed.”
Among this listening to the president’s remarks were Kiefer Sutherland, Matthew Perry, Conan O’Brien, director James Burrows, Lorre’s production partner Bob Broder, UTA’s Jay Sures and the Tennis Channel’s Ken Solomon.
There were about 25 people at the event, which cost $16,700 per person to benefit the Democratic National Committee.
Shortly before his departure to Los Angeles from Joint Base Andrews on Air Force One, the president spoke to the nation about the killing of nine people in an historically black South Carolina church by a young man, now in custody, who is believed to be a white supremacist. Obama decried continued governmental indifference to gun violence, noting that “someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”
He also spoke movingly concerning the history of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which was founded by African Americans in the early 19th century. “Any death of this sort is a tragedy,” the president said. “There’s something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship … This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.”
While onboard Air Force One, some reporters asked deputy press secretary Eric Schultz if the White house had considered canceling or scaling back the fundraisers because of the fatal shootings. “I hadn’t heard of any conversations about that,” Schultz told reporters on the plane. “I don’t know of any scheduling changes for the next few days.”
After spending two hours at Lorre’s house, Obama headed to the nearby home of actor/producer Tyler Perry for second DNC fundraiser. Tickets for that event ranged from $2,500 to $33,500.
According to a pool report from the Perry event, Obama spoke briefly about the shootings. “To see such a horrific event unfold like that is particularly shocking and it’s a reminder that we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he told an audience of about 250 people. (Attendees included January Jones, Matthew Weiner, Jason Collins, Ted Sarandos and Frank McCourt.)
Addressing the crowd for about 20 minutes, the president sought to liven up the mood by praising Perry and his family.
“His baby is so cute,” Obama said. “I was holding that baby and saying, my, my, my. That’s a cute baby. Now, everybody’s baby is somewhat cute. But objectively speaking, this is a really cute baby. So — got a cute mama — which make for — I know about that because I employed the same strategy, to improve your gene pool. But what a blessing.”
Obama then touted his economic record and health care reforms, according to the pool report, “receiving rapturous applause from his supporters.”
During another light moment Obama mentioned that college was still too expensive, and too many students leave with too much debt, with comic timing a small child squealled ‘owww’, prompting laughter.
Obama went on to tell the crowd that the country should reform its criminal justice system so those incarcerated for non-violent crimes can get jobs “after they leave office.”
Realizing that he had misspoken, Obama acknowledged the “Freudian slip.”
He then recalled Bill Clinton once described the presidency as the crown jewel of the federal prison system.
Obama wrapped up the Perry event at about 7:30 pm and headed to Beverly Hills for the night.
On Friday morning, before leaving for San Francisco, the president will travel across town to Highland Park, where he will record a podcast with “WTF” comedian Marc Maron.
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