Obama's Only Public Comment on 'Terrible Tragedy' Was Followed by a Joke

July 18, 2014 - 5:53 AM

Obama

President Barack Obama speaks in front of the Interstate 495 bridge over the Christina River near Wilmington, Del., Thursday, July 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(CNSNews.com) - "It's wonderful to be back in Delaware," President Barack Obama told a gathering there on Thursday.

Then he made his only public remark of the day on the Malaysian passenger plane that was shot down over Ukraine several hours before he spoke, killing all 298 aboard.

"Before I begin, obviously the world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border, and it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy. Right now we're working to determine whether there were American citizens on board. That is our first priority. And I've directed my national security team to stay in close contact with the Ukrainian government. The United States will offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened and why, and as a country our thoughts and prayers are with all the families of the passengers, wherever they call home."

The president continued: "I want to thank Jeremy for that introduction. Give Jeremy a big round of applause. It is great to be in the state that gave us Joe Biden.  We've got actually some better-looking Bidens with us here today. (Laughter.) We've got -- (chuckles) -- Beau and his wife Hallie are here. Give them a big round of applause. We love them."

After plugging infrastructure projects in Delaware, Obama went on to do some fund-raising in New York. In between, aboard Air Force One, the White House says he "placed separate telephone calls to President Poroshenko of Ukraine and Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia to discuss the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17." The White House later released a photo of Obama on the telephone.

When the president finally returned to the Washington area Thursday night, MSNBC reported that he was still on the plane more than half-an-hour after it landed: "That usually means that the president is engaged in an uninterruptable telephone call," the MSNBC reporter said.

But no -- according to the Associated Press, Obama's return to the White House was delayed by the discovery of a suspicious package there:

"White House spokesman Josh Earnest says Obama was held aboard Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base until the package at the White House was determined to be of no threat to the president," the AP reported. "Air Force One landed just after 10 p.m. EDT but Obama remained on board for more than a half-hour. Meanwhile, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who flew back from New York City with the president after they attended a political event, got off and departed the base."

He arrived back at the White House just after 11 p.m.

Obama reportedly will spend some time with his advisers on Friday before going to the presidential retreat at Camp David for the weekend.

Secretary of State John Kerry issued the following statement on the plane shoot-down on Thursday night:

"We are horrified by the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. There are no words adequate to express our condolences to the families of the nearly 300 victims. We offer our sympathies and support to the Governments of Malaysia and the Netherlands at this difficult time, as well as to all those whose citizens may have been on board. We are reviewing whether any American citizens were aboard the flight. The United States Government remains prepared to assist with a credible, international investigation any way we can, and we will continue to be in touch with all relevant partners as we seek the facts of what happened today."