The image of President Obama hitting a Martha's Vineyard golf course only moments after addressing the nation on the horrific beheading of American journalist James Foley has not only drawn widespread condemnation from the press, it has those closest to the photojournalist dismayed.
Matthew VanDyke, an award-winning filmmaker who grew a bond with Foley while covering war zones, said it was “irritating” to see the pictures of Obama laughing with fellow duffers astride a golf cart even as Foley’s parents tearfully discussed their son's murder in a news conference of their own, which was preempted briefly by the president's address.
“It wasn’t helpful to see,” he said. “Especially when a lot of us who disagree with his foreign policy already have issues with the fact that he seems disconnected.”
The Islamic State militants who beheaded Foley blamed the murder as a result of recent U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and its refusal to negotiate a prisoner swap.
Foley, 40, who was taken hostage about two years ago while covering the civil war in Syria, was decapitated by a black-clad Islamic State fighter in a gruesome video released Tuesday. On Wednesday, Obama, on vacation with the first family, spoke briefly of the murder before racing off for a 1:06 p.m. tee time at Farm Neck Golf Club.
“We will be vigilant and we will be relentless" in pursuing justice for Foley," Obama, who had earlier called Foley's parents, said at the brief press conference.
“Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers. Let’s be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence,” Obama said.
Although some supporters of the president defended the move as showing Obama does not allow his schedule to be dictated by terrorists, British Prime Minister David Cameron cut his own vacation short over the incident. And Obama has been taken to task for golfing in the face of terror and tragedy by The New York Times' Maureen Dowd as well as others who are typically supportive.
Rick Ungar, a senior political writer for Forbes who often sides with Obama's policies, wrote that his decision to go golfing so soon after the press conference shows a president who is "sadly" capable of "showing a stunning inability to grasp the nation's collective pain and respond accordingly."
Michael Foley, James’ brother, said he was in the room when his family took the call and said they appreciated the president's gesture. He said the family has been struggling in the days after his brother’s murder, but the government has been helping his family cope.
Although Foley did not specifically criticize Obama, he told FoxNews.com he was "disappointed" to learn Obama hit the links so soon after the press conference.
“I was disappointed to hear that because I really feel that this is seminal moment,” he said.