GOP Congressman Says Eric Garner’s Death Is His Own Fault

Representative Peter King (R-NY), who’s been an occasional voice of reason on contentious issues, retreated into Nutjobville when he commented on Eric Garner’s chokehold death. Instead of lamenting police brutality, even if King can’t stand the idea of unarmed black men roaming the streets, he jumped on Garner, saying his death was his own fault.

According to The Huffington Post, King believes obesity and other health problems are why Garner died. He told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer:

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If he had not had asthma, and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died from this.

That makes one want to ask him where he got his medical degree, so we know how he can say that with so much certainty. But, alas, we can’t since King’s educational background is in law and political science — not medicine.

King then said that police had no reason to know that Garner was in serious condition, because he was saying, “I can’t breathe.” King said that if you can’t breathe, you can’t talk. He also said that police hear this kind of thing all the time, implying that victims of police brutality are crying wolf, and that’s why this keeps happening.

While the New York medical examiner did say that Garner’s weight, asthma and heart problems contributed to his death, the main cause was the chokehold (which was specifically outlawed in the NYPD handbook years ago). Nobody, including King, can say with certainty that Garner would still be alive if he’d been completely healthy. For all we know, Officer Pantaleo would have choked him to death anyway.

The Washington Post says that others in the GOP have decried Garner’s murder, including Rep. Charles Rangel (R-NY) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). Rangel slammed the grand jury’s decision not to indict Pantaleo, saying that nobody has to be a lawyer to know a person was killed unnecessarily. Even Charles Krauthammer was angry with that decision.

King might be an outlier in Congress on this issue. Unlike Rangel and Rodgers, he praised the grand jury’s decision, saying in a tweet that it was good to see justice done. According to the Washington Post article, he also said:

You had a 350-pound person who was resisting arrest. The police were trying to bring him down as quickly as possible. If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died.

So, in addition to his heart condition, his weight, and his asthma, the fact that he was resisting arrest for a petty crime was justification enough for police to use the chokehold (he was suspected of selling single cigarettes tax free. Oh. No.).

Later on, King doubled down on his remarks on Fox “News,” saying again that Garner was resisting arrest, that the police couldn’t have known that he was having problems breathing (because he was talking), and that the police didn’t kill him on purpose. And, of course, he says there was no racism involved because a majority of NYPD officers are minorities, there was a black female sergeant present, and NYPD’s police chief is black. Some of King’s best friends are probably black, too.

It’s sad to see anybody take a trip into Nutjobville this way, especially when it involves someone’s death.

The simple truth is that Eric Garner did not have to die. He is not to blame for his own death.

Featured image by Thomas Altfather Good – Own work. Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License via Wikimedia Commons

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