The White House has responded to opposition to President Obama’s appearance at the University of Notre Dame, claiming that only "one group" is organizing a boycott and pointing to other groups who support the president’s commencement speech and reception of an honorary degree.
"I think there's one group organizing a boycott and, as best I can understand it, there are 23 groups that have formed in support of the president's invitation," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, according to ABC.
The "one group," ND Response, is a coalition of 11 pro-life groups including Notre Dame Right to Life, the Notre Dame Law St. Thomas More Society and the Notre Dame College Republicans.
Gibbs’ reference to 23 groups concerned a letter written to University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins by groups such as the African Student Association, the College Democrats, the Notre Dame Peace Fellowship and the Spanish Club.
The letter criticized "those who would rather divide than work together for common ground and for the common good."
"We are concerned that in narrowing the focus to one aspect of life that has often proven polarizing and divisive many have lost the ability to recognize the other aspects of President Obama’s work that continues to uphold the principles of justice and solidarity," their letter said, according to ABC.
Gibbs claimed that 97 percent of the students supported the decision. However, ABC reported that this claim misstated an Associated Press story which said that of the 95 Notre Dame seniors who wrote to the student newspaper The Observer, 97 percent were positive.
Gibbs also cited a Pew poll reporting that 50 percent of Catholics supported Notre Dame’s invitation to Obama, while only 28 percent opposed it.
However, that poll also reported that 45 percent of those who attend Mass at least weekly disapproved of the decision, while 37 percent approved.
"The president understands the right of anybody in this country to disagree and to exercise their disagreement in that way. I think it's important to understand it appears as if the vast majority of students and the majority of Catholics are supportive of the invitation the president accepted. And I know he's greatly looking forward to seeing them," Gibbs said, according to ABC.
More than 2,900 students will receive degrees on Sunday, of whom 2,001 are undergraduate seniors.