On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Republican governor candidate Jeanne Ives was asked a question about reducing gun violence.
"The problem is the gun violence in this city of Chicago, predominantly," Ives told a public forum for candidates. "And you know how you’re going to solve it? Fathers in the home."
After reportedly being booed at the event, Ives, an Illinois state representative from Wheaton, repeated "fathers in the home," according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Ives campaign later doubled down on the comment, explaining in a statement released to media that "many have advocated the same idea, including President Obama."
The Ives statement quoted from a 2008 Father’s Day speech in which then-candidate Obama, himself raised mostly by a single mother and her parents, called on fathers to own up to their family responsibilities.
So is Ives seeking to further an idea that was earlier championed by Obama? Did Obama say fathers actively raising their children will solve the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago? We decided to check.
Obama’s Father’s Day speech received a lot of attention, analysis and scrutiny at the time. PolitiFact rated one of the dramatic claims in the speech as True:
"More than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children."
Neither Ives in her Martin Luther King Jr. Day comments nor her campaign in its follow-up explanation explicitly mentioned race in connection with the responsibilities of fathers. In fact, the campaign statement sought to draw a link between her assertions and those of Obama by directly quoting from his 2008 Father’s Day speech, yet omitted passages that specifically discussed African-American families.
One Obama quote cited by the Ives campaign expressed concern about the absence of too many fathers from homes and families:
"We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison."
Peniel Joseph, founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the University of Texas, said Ives was off the mark in trying to link Obama’s sentiments to her take on solving gun violence.
Joseph, also a professor at Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs, said he knows Obama’s Father’s Day speech well and the soon-to-be-president "never connected that (speech) specifically to ending gun violence. It was more of an observation on black families."
Obama did cite crime as one of the outcomes of broken homes, but Joseph said gun violence can be linked to a broad range of factors. "It’s connected to the drug trade, unemployment, segregated schools," he added.
Joseph said he could not recall a time when Obama, in that speech or others, said fathers staying home with their families will reduce gun violence.
During his presidency, Obama made several major speeches about gun violence.
In a 2013 report, released weeks after a school massacre that killed 20 youngsters in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama proposed a multi-pronged approach to addressing the issue — including improved background checks and other ways to strengthen restrictions on criminals buying guns.
Not listed among Obama’s solutions was an emphasis on more two-parent families.
April Zeoli, a gun violence expert at Michigan State University, disputed Ives’ prescription for curbing gun violence.
"I haven’t seen this as a real, viable intervention for gun violence in Chicago," said Zeoli, an associate professor of criminal justice.
In the Ives campaign statement, the candidate also stressed that Obama was just one of "many" others who had drawn a link between absentee fathers and gun violence. She did not name other names than Obama’s, however.
When we asked her campaign to elaborate, it provided a list of advocacy organizations such as The National Fatherhood Initiative, The National Center for Fathering and The Fatherhood Project.
Also on the list provided by the Ives campaign was disgraced comedian Bill Cosby, who is facing retrial in Pennsylvania on charges that he drugged and sexually assaulted a woman.
Ives claims she was echoing comments from former President Obama as she declared recently that the solution to curbing rampant gun violence would depend on more fathers taking responsibility for their families.
In his 2008 speech, Obama drew a link between children from fatherless homes and those who stray into crime. But Ives took it a lot further than Obama ever did.
Her sweeping claim is not supported by the passages from Obama’s speech that her campaign pointed to as evidence. A reading of the full speech doesn’t support Ives either.
As president, Obama made several speeches about the proliferation of guns and violence, and also laid out an array of proposals to deal with the problems. In his public pronouncements, however, Obama did not make statements linking the problem of absent fathers with gun violence.
Ives is taking the message from Obama’s 2008 Father’s Day speech out of context. We rate her statement False.