July 22nd, 2009
09:30 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama: Police 'acted stupidly' in arresting Harvard scholar

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "acted stupidly" by arresting Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates after they were called to his home on a report of a burglary last week, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.

Disorderly conduct charges against Gates - one of the most prominent African-American academics - were dropped Tuesday after the incident drew national attention, with all involved calling it a "regrettable and unfortunate" incident. Asked about the matter in a White House news conference Wednesday, Obama said it shows "how race remains a factor in this society.

"That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made," said Obama, the first African-American U.S. president. "I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made. And yet, the fact of the matter is that, you know, this still haunts us."


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (115 Responses)
  1. rdunlap

    Police are no ones friends unless you know the secret handshake.

    July 22, 2009 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  2. axh

    That professor acted stupid himself by drawing attention to this random police call.

    July 22, 2009 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  3. Scott

    Just the fact that CNN put this in their Headline spot shows that they are really interested in Health Care...They are like a big Gossip Magazine...

    Its so childish how they report the news on this website.....i wish they would learn how not to be so entertaining and be more news worthy.

    July 22, 2009 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  4. JD

    This whole case would have never received one iota of attention had the homeowner been white. In fact, this whole thing is nothing but race-baiting nonsense. The police were investigating a report and did everything right and nothing wrong. This is just one guy who acted like a jerk and is now acting like he's entitled to act like a jerk just because he's black.

    Sorry...this nonsense wore thing a LONG time ago.

    This isn't about race in the least. It's about one guy who refused to cooperate with officers on the scene.

    July 22, 2009 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  5. Jaison From NYC

    To all Readers,

    Now i live in NYC but i have lived in Cambridge for yrs and i know Sgnt Jimmy Crowley very well. as far as i know about Jimmy Crowley i don't think he is racists. he is very friendly and smart guy.
    because i can say this i my self is an Asian. i am sure there is some misunderstanding by Mr Henry Louis Gate. i hope this all incident cool
    down and we all should move forward. now a days we have better things to worry about.

    July 22, 2009 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  6. Really!?

    So our dictator is now personally reviewing each police arrest? How else does he KNOW they acted "stupidly".

    July 22, 2009 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  7. KP

    Of course the police acted stupidly. The man was in his home. Maybe he gave the police some verbal grief but no one should have been arrested.

    July 22, 2009 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  8. Randy

    Obama just made the same stupid mistake he accused the police of! He assumed the white man was wrong. He admitted he didn't know the facts.

    July 22, 2009 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  9. Rick in OP

    The original CNN article regarding Mr. Gates should be referenced. In that article, a photograph of Mr. Gates is shown on his front porch (in handcuffs) standing next to a BLACK POLICEMAN. I suppose if Mr. Gates is to be believed, the BLACK POLICEMAN is a racist and is practicing racial profiling?????
    Now the President is second guessing the police and labeling their actions as stupid.
    All I can say is that the police don’t get paid enough to deal with these buffoons.

    July 22, 2009 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  10. Susan (Michigan)

    He's right, of course. the facts that there are a bunch of loony white folks still claiming he is not a citizen all boils down to them not thinking a black man, far more intelligent than they, should be the President of a very diversified US, which also bugs the Klannish crew. They'd just as soon go back to slavery, no Hispanics except to pick their crops, and certainly no poor white folks to mess up the economy be needing food stamps and medicine. How dare they?

    July 22, 2009 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  11. CB

    There are alot of arrest made all the time for a mistake. Why must we make it a racist issue? They dropped the charges and I hope it was NOT because the president commented on it. This is NOT a racial thing. FORGET the rediculous thing as the pres. said. It may have been a mistake but since he is black and the pres. friend, it is rediculous. It may have been justifiable or it may have been a mistake. Why do we have to bring in the racial side of it Mr. President? That is what is still wrong with this country.

    July 23, 2009 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  12. coolchange

    I've seen videos where White people have torn up tickets in front of police officers, cursed them out and on and on.

    But, all they say to them is "Have a nice day!"

    When was the last time you saw a White person beaten up by police?

    Stop telling us that racism is over with. We keep telling you guys that it's not and all some of you want to do is shut us up.

    Have you ever heard anybody tell a Jewish person to stop talking about the Holocaust?

    July 23, 2009 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  13. Dakota

    Let's see / Obama was not there when this whole saga went down. So how can he judge the cops actions? There are always 2 sides to each story. I am getting sick of the race card being played. IT seems that is the first thing people like to yell when something does not go their way. Society as a whole needs to grow up and take responsibilty for their actions.

    July 23, 2009 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  14. SurprisedJoe

    wow, since when is performing ones job as a police officer acting stupidly. The police are called for a suspected break-in, they ask the man to step outside to discuss the matter and for identification. Instead of stepping outside and providing the ID that was asked for the man rants about being harassed because he is black and promptly is arrested for his behavior. What he should have done was provided the ID and answered the questions being asked. That's what I would have done and that's what any law abiding citizen should have done. I don't care that he is black or is a professor, be respectful of the law and this won't happen. As for Obama (and I am a supporter) I would suggest you get all of the facts straight before making statements like this. If you start to sound like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton your caucasion supporters will be voting Republican in the next election.

    July 23, 2009 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  15. Hector

    Now Obama knows how to be police too. And what is with this acceptance of reverse racism ?

    July 23, 2009 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  16. BanPoliticalParties

    Shame on you, Obama. That officer did exactly what he was supposed to do and the same thing he would have done if Gates had been white. I suppose this is what I should have expected from Obama; more identity politics. Gates is indeed very intelligent and he created exactly the situation he wanted... of course he won't be letting it go. The real racist in this situation is Gates.

    July 23, 2009 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  17. jarrod

    Thank you Obama for speaking out on this.

    Explain to me how you get arrested for being loud in your own home when they are there for a suspected burgalry. I personally dont believe the police story but even if every word is true they are still dead wrong. Why are you hassling him after you know it is his home.

    The problen however is people dont believe blacks should be allowed to question the police.

    July 23, 2009 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  18. kay

    He should have made no comment until all the facts are told.

    July 23, 2009 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  19. John from California

    Bullcrap distraction to an important national speech on a health care topic of concern to most all Americans.

    This race baiting is below normal politics and for CNN to make it a "topic" says a lot about the political agenda of CNN.

    July 23, 2009 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  20. last Honest Man

    Obama is a complete idiot for talking about another in the long list of things he does not understand. If I was the Police Officer who confronted
    the Professor I would tell Mr. President to go to hell!!!!!

    Maybe he can work something out with Satan to get Health Insurance
    for the millions of occupants.

    July 23, 2009 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  21. barackobama4prez

    Thank you Mr. President for speaking directly to the Gates controversy and calling out the cop who treated Prof. Gates so horribly. I'm proud to have you as my President!

    July 23, 2009 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  22. Kevin

    How can anyone make a judgement based on biased reporting? Are police suppose to avoid questioning a reported crime because the perp happens to be black? Obama spoke "out of school" on this subject. My bet is, an Irish cop in Cambridge, probably voted for Obama (as a lot in Massachusetts did). Party trumps race in Mass., and was the case this past election cycle. Obama criticising a white, Irish, hardworking, honest cop will not sit well with the folks. My bet is that the professor became biligerent and it spiraled out of control.

    July 23, 2009 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  23. T.T.L.

    I hope we didn't think that Barack Obama's ascendancy to the presidency was make racism decline. Watch and see! I sure hope not, but I painstakingly believe that the worse is yet to come. The bad part is that the media is going to fuel the flames. May God keep us all!

    July 23, 2009 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  24. T.T.L.

    I hope we didn't think that Barack Obama's ascendancy to the presidency would make racism decline. Watch and see! I sure hope not, but I painstakingly believe that the worse is yet to come. The bad part is that the media is going to fuel the flames. May God keep us all!

    July 23, 2009 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  25. Sam

    what is the possibility that a black police officer would arrest a white American in his own home, after being shown photo id (with the home's address), responding to a break-in into the home?

    the same way that in NYC only black undercover cops keeps getting shot by their white counterparts. is this because the black plainclothes are congentially better at discerning cops from perps?

    Until police departments around the world flush out all the rogue officers among them, and discontinue the enabling environment, entire departments will continue to suffer for the malicious acts of few.

    July 23, 2009 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
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