July 23rd, 2009
05:35 PM ET
5 years ago

First on the CNN Ticker: GOP questions Obama's police criticism

The NRSC will place a national Web ad Thursday questioning President Obama's criticism of  Massachusetts police department.
The NRSC will place a national Web ad Thursday questioning President Obama's criticism of Massachusetts police department.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Senate Republicans will place a national Web ad Thursday calling into question President Obama's decision to criticize a Massachusetts police department for arresting a Harvard professor at his own home.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm for the Senate GOP, is paying for the ad that asks people whether it is appropriate for Obama to say that the Cambridge Police "acted stupidly" for arresting scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Gates was charged with disorderly conduct after reacting angrily when police arrived at his house after receiving a call that a break-in was taking place. On Tuesday, the charges against Gates were dropped. Obama was asked about the incident during Wednesday's nationally televised news conference, and he acknowledged that he may be "a little biased" because of his friendship with Gates.

"But I think it's fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry; No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, No. 3 ... that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately."

The incident, Obama said, shows "how race remains a factor in this society."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that Obama did not regret using those words, but sought to clarify that the president "was not calling the officer stupid."

"The situation got out of hand," Gibbs said.

A Republican official tells CNN that the NRSC is buying a Web ad that will run on the Drudge Report asking people if Obama's remarks were "presidential."

"This isn't taking sides between the police officers and Mr. Gates," NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh told CNN. "It is the issue of whether it is appropriate for the President of United States to be weighing in and taking sides before, by his own admission, all the facts are known."

Walsh, who denied this was a political maneuver, said people who click on the ad will be directed to the NRSC Web site to record their thoughts.

"Unlike the president, we are not taking sides here," Walsh said. "He is the commander- in-chief. Is it appropriate for him to prejudge a legal matter when he doesn't know the facts?"

In addition, the NRSC will issue a news release this afternoon in an attempt to pressure Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, to "speak out" on the matter.

While Walsh said the NRSC is not seeking to politicize the issue, it does ask people to donate to the NRSC. And it is an opportunity for the NRSC to collect email addresses for future political undertakings such as fundraising.


Filed under: NRSC • President Obama
soundoff (310 Responses)
  1. b

    He was not there. He just showed racism because first his friend is black and he had no right to defend even a friend until the facts were heard.

    July 23, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  2. Timbuk2

    President Obama can take too deep of a breath and the GOP will find fault with it.

    July 23, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  3. Nothing 'Stand Up' about Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)

    Police are often far too aggressive and volatile in their demands that we defer absolutely to the authority that we give to them. They are supposed to arrive and calm the situation, not arrive and raise the temperature in an effort to intimate people into absolute obedience to them.

    The police in the case of Professor Gates DID act stupidly.

    Btw, the Republicans really think they can score points with this issue? How about they advance a better health care reform bill than the Democrats, or a better energy bill, or a better any other bill? Only then would I even think about voting Republican again.

    July 23, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  4. Fraser

    While I don't fault the officer for responding to the burglary call, the officer's subsequent actions show that he WAS stupid. Once he saw Professor Gates' I.D. and realized that Gates owned the home and was not a burglar, that should have been the end of the story. The cop should have apologized for the mix up and simply left.

    Gates had every right to be annoyed and to ask for the cop's name and badge number. The cop, on the other hand, did NOT have the right to arrest him.

    July 23, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  5. Obama Victim

    this boy should worry about his own party before he calls out antyrepubs..................he doesn't need any repubs............he has all the votes he needs..............what, he can't get them?? tells you all you need to know

    July 23, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  6. Roberta McCain and John McLiar

    Buying an add to see if Obama's remarks were presidential? Wow. And we want these children to run our government? Good luck ReThugs.

    July 23, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  7. Rudy

    Well I hate to say it but i'm sure this is going to turn ugly in the media and everywhere else!! The President of the United States Of America basically just took a side!!! So how many of you would vote for him now!! If it was a White President and the situatin was reversed WOW i could only imagine when the impeachment talks would have started and the racist comments would have begun probably the minute he took sides and the side of his own color! It's a sad day when a President takes a side based on color!! Impeach Obama!!!

    July 23, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  8. Bruce

    Sorry. I meant to say he was NOT in his own home.

    July 23, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. donttreadonme

    This Police officer did nothing wrong he was only doing his job. The man was arrested for being a disrespectful jerk. It is not right that the President would chime in that the officer acted stupidly.

    I agree that African American as whole are targeted more and that is sad but, as far as “African-Americans being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately" let’s be honest for once African Americans are committing crimes disproportionately.

    July 23, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  10. Nothing 'Stand Up' about Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)

    Police are often far too aggressive and volatile in their demands that we defer absolutely to the authority that we give to them. They are supposed to arrive and calm the situation, not arrive and raise the temperature in an effort to intimate people into absolute obedience to them.

    The police in the case of Professor Gates DID act stupidly.

    July 23, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  11. Wayne

    For a politician that is touted as being able to play chess while the others play checkers, Obama made the rookie mistake of being thrown off-message for his all important health care press conference. It was supposed to be ALL HEALTHCARE ALL THE TIME, but because Obama allowed himself to be so easily sidetracked, the White House is embroiled in a needless (and some would say politically costly) battle with the police and their supporters. Obama just does not have the experience, and having to train him on the job, is already proving costly. Hillary would never have walked so willingly into a needless battle while the healthcare of millions of Americans was at stake. SAD.

    July 23, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  12. Jessicah Hegeman

    Mr. Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct, NOT burglary, and rightly so. Numerous accounts report that Mr. Gates was verbal, angry and did not cooperate with the police. Mr. Gates brought the issue of race on himself! I hope the Cambridge police department and Sargeant Crowley do not succumb to the pressure to apologize...they did nothing wrong. And President Obama was incorrect to comment on something he only knew bits and pieces about. Shame on you President Obama!

    July 23, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  13. Native Pride

    Any minority can be subject to racial profiling. Being Native American I have been subject to extended traffic stops lasting over a hour, the outcome will be a creative ticket for something minor. Comments have been made by Customs Agents when crossing back into the U.S./Canada border, I have been employed at the same place for 10yrs. and drive a nice vehicle. The Customs Agent asked where I was heading? I told him back to work and he replied "you work?". I'm sure the responding police officer was not as polite as he would have been if it was a white person who owned the house.

    July 23, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  14. Breezy

    Yes, there is a race problem in this country and yes, he should have kept his mouth shut and let the law do what it is supposed to do. He did not have all the facts and said so.

    July 23, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  15. Bill NY

    I wish that just for one week those who do not understand being persecuted for their skin color could suffer discrimination. Its easy to say people are playing the race card when you have never been turned away from housing, denied a job, been followed through a department store, have women clutch at their purses or cross the street when they see you, or have police randomly stop you because your skin color is the only thing that matches the description. Dear Lord, for just one week I would like to see them suffer what others go through their entire lives and then talk that crap.

    July 23, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  16. Betty

    Obama needs to stop driving a force that is causing white/black's to once again because racially diverse. The comments were not warranted, and local officials will address the unfortunate matter with the unethical racial actions on behalf of that police department. Obama's role as our President is to lead us and not to continue to ride the black/white issue. The race card is only going to cause him more headaches and believe it or not, there are several in this country that do not see black/white, like myself. He is the one who continues to see black/white and he is our leader. That is a scary thought~

    July 23, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  17. ed

    Maybe we should take a look at 8 stupid years of GWB and see some of those presidential statements, but I guess Obama is a little too intelligent for most Rethugs taste, they like their blacks in the fields and humble like their good old days. BRING EM ON!

    July 23, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  18. Garry

    Why is it when someone black in a higher up position or other area it is always the race card that is played. They did it because I'm black. It never changes..I frankly am tired of hearing how all the problems in the world are because "I'm black"...not just in this instance but in EVERY instance where a black person is accused of, suspected of or hell..because it looked suspicious it is always about " race"...they harrassed me because I'm black, they arrested me becauser I'm black, they wouldn't hire me because I'm black.
    You know..it just may be bacuse you weren't qualified, or wrong place at the weong time, or because you are guilty.
    Wish I could play the white card as much as the black population does the balck card!!!

    July 23, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  19. Diane

    It's about time. Thank you Republicans. I do not care whether the homeowner is Black, White or Pokadot. If police are called to a home for a "suspected" breakin, the POLICE must be treated respectfully not defensively. You forget, the POLICE were CALLED, they did NOT just haphazardly decide to question Gates his identity, or right to be there. I would have expected the Police to question WHOMEVER answered the door–they came to HELP not be persecuted.

    Enough of this "cops are Bias", racist etc. Remember they "Answered a concerned Call". Maybe next time they shouldn't if this is the reception our Police get.

    I've had Enough!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where is "OUR" version of an Al Sharpton or Rev. Jackson.

    July 23, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  20. Anita

    Can we say Race baiting. This was below the President and it should never have been said. Officers of the LAW (NOT LAWYER) are in a dangerous situation that politicians can not imagine. These officers were called by the neighbor who was watching out for the professors property. Hmmmm. Cambridge police saw two men attempting to break into a house. hmmm. Had the professor taken a different tack and thanked the officers, instead of calling them names, for protecting his property there would never have been an arrest. Talk about racist.

    I hope the cambridge police ignore any calls to that address in the future. I would not want the professor inconvienced in any way by a police pressence for ANY reason.

    July 23, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  21. Andre

    I'm more concerned about the economy, the jobless numbers released today, and how this healthcare reform legislation will impact families and companies. Last time I checked, Obama is the president of all 50 US states so he can comment on something that happened in Massachusetts.

    July 23, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  22. Carolyn J. Pillsbury 3 Cataldo Road, Meredith New Hampshire

    President Obama needs to go on Public TV and apologize to the police officer who arrested Professor Gates when he was breaking into his home. This police officer was only doing the job that his community pays him to do. How was the police officer to know that the information this guy was showing to him was really his and not perhaps that this guy had not hit the professor over the head and stolen his identity.

    July 23, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  23. drc

    The professor clearly looks for race issues...I'm sure if his house was broken into and the police did nothing...the police would be racist for not responding and then would go on to say that if it were a white home the police would have been there in 30 seconds.

    Please, enough with the race card. Like the boy who cried wolf, WE are getting tired of hearing the same old lies.

    July 23, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  24. ron

    And the GOP continue with their Southern Strategy.

    July 23, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12