President Obama was reportedly “shocked” when he saw newly released footage from February showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching and knocking his fiancée unconscious in an elevator.
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told host Chuck Todd on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” that he and Obama have “talked generally” about the National Football League’s controversial handling of the domestic violence case that has rocked the nation.
“The president was shocked by what he saw, let’s put it that way,” said McDonough. When asked how Obama thought the NFL handled the situation overall, McDonough said, “I don't want to get into a characterization of that right now. But I think we all know that Ray Rice being suspended indefinitely seems to be exactly the right thing.”
Last Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said he didn't know if Obama saw the footage but that the commander-in-chief had been following the controversy.
“This administration and this president do believe strongly that the scourge of violence against women is something that needs to be aggressively combated,” said Earnest. “I don’t want to comment on the individual decisions made, in this case, by an individual football team. But you have seen the president and the vice president make very forceful public comments in talking about how important it is for men in particular to step up and step forward and make clear that violence against women is something that is not and cannot be tolerated.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell initially suspended Rice, 27, for just two games after video surfaced on Feb. 19 showing the athlete dragging Janay Palmer, now his wife, out of an elevator at the Revel hotel-casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The NFL only announced the football player’s indefinite suspension from the league on Sept. 8 — after the second video from the same incident was released by TMZ. In that video, Rice is clearly seen punching Palmer in the face. The league claims it had not seen the second video until just before issuing the suspension, although a law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that the league received the videotape of the assault in April.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” that Goodell should resign if he lied about what the NFL did and didn’t know. Gillibrand was one of 16 female senators who previously sent a letter to Goodell last week calling on him to institute a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence. She added that the way the NFL handled the situation was “awful” and that it could lead to congressional hearings.
In addition to the letter sent by Gillibrand, last week, several lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and 12 Democrats on the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee also demanded answers from Goodell and the NFL. The influential National Organization for Women, has gone as far to call on Goodell to resign.
The NFL has since hired former FBI director Robert Mueller to conduct an investigation into the incident
In a statement, the NFL said Mueller’s final report on the attack will be made public. The probe will be overseen by New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney. Goodell has promised his full cooperation with the investigation and says Mueller will have access to all the NFL’s records.
Rice, meanwhile, made his first public on Saturday since the indefinite suspension. The football player, accompanied by his wife and daughter, visited his hometown of New Rochelle, New York, to watch his former high school team play.