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. Karen

    How disappointing, without knowing all the facts. It proves that even the President is eager to pull out the "race card".

    July 23, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  2. RobK

    Gates is obviously trying to get attention. He thinks he is a big shot who is above the law. The cops have wide latitude in how they handle situations. This likely has nothing to do with race. I am sure that thousands of people of all colors have had similar things happen to them. Obama should not have jumped into this without knowing the facts.

    July 23, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  3. Kevin

    It is very disappointing that Obama chose to aid in making this a race issue by saying "race remains a factor in this society" in reference to this incident. Having admitted he didn't know all of the facts of the incident he should not have made such a statement. The citizen who snapped the photo of them arresting Gates also said he was "out of control." I fail to see how screaming racism anytime a person of another race is arrested is going to make us a better society. I only see it making us more of a society of crybabies than we already are. The man wasn't arrested for breaking in, he was arrested for going ballistic on the police officers. Although I wasn't there either, I am white and I can assure you that I would also get hauled in if I went nuts on the police that were there just checking out the call they received. Should they not have responded? But then of course if they hadn't and it was a real break-in then that would also be racism by them not following up on a call of a robbery taking place at a black man's home. Other than Gates and Obama's own words, I see nowhere that this case involves race.

    July 23, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  4. Mike in NYC

    It really was a monumentally foolish thing for him to say.

    Playing to your base while alienating swing voters is not what I'd expect from someone reputed to be "brilliant." Maybe he thinks the period of White guilt pre-soak is over, and full-on cleansing can begin. Judging from the comments on the generally liberal boards here at CNN, however, Gates ain't gettin' a whole lotta love.

    Message to law-abiding members of minority groups - if you don't like being stopped disproportionately by the cops, then get your criminally-minded co-ethnics under control. You know, the ones that commit a VERY disproportionate share of violent crime. Then maybe cops - of all colors - will be a little less suspicious of you.

    July 23, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  5. Steven

    President Obama,
    Please stay out of local legal matters, especially if they become racially motivated. You made it clear that you didn't know the facts about the case, but you still accused the police and by default the officer in question.
    Today I read and heard so much about the integrity of the officer, and equally the comments and expectations of Professor Gates.
    Please lead our country. Don't use your power to support your friends; they may not deserve it.

    July 23, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  6. Irma Cunningham

    This is an ignorant judgement for the NRSC to make! This is our President and they have no consideration nor respect for ANYTHING he says or tries to do. The NRC is acting like a group of immature kids nitpicking and looking for something to NAG ON!. They need to grow up! I am changing back to a Democrat with everyone else even if I do have conservative values. They have lost any respect I have held for them....conservative or not! They are now 'SILLY"!

    July 23, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  7. Obama 08/12

    What's the big deal? The cops DID act stupidly! Cops are not super heroes to be worshiped blindly.

    July 23, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  8. Bruce Ash

    I thought Barack Obama was supposed to be the first post racial POTUS.

    This is latest in a long series of actions that proves otherwise.

    July 23, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  9. Jeff in Virginia

    What planet is the RNC on?

    How could this possibly help them come elections?

    These people are getting further detached from reality by the day, and it's really starting to show.

    July 23, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  10. brian moore

    Not a very Presidential thing to say at all. What type of language is that to use as President? "Stupidly"? Besides, is he choosing sides because he knows this guy??? He doesn't even know the facts of what happened. That's change for you.

    July 23, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    I don't care who you are, no one is above the law. If the police officers had a reasonable doubt to arrest him for disturbance, I think they are in the right. In order to really understand what happened, you need to hear both sides of the story and decide.

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  12. THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

    Agree 100% with the President and I am not of color!

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  13. Henry Carpenito

    President Obama seems to forget that Blacks comprise 13% of the US pop. and are responsible for 34% of the crime in the US.

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  14. Julio

    I bet if Prof. Gates was white and Republican he will be treated with respect.

    First of all,

    The Police Officer was wrong to get inside of the house without a warrant.

    Second, Prof. Gates identified himself as the owner of the house.

    Third, Prof. Gates was arrested in his house where is the public witness the disordely conduct he was accused of.

    When a personal house becomes a public property is it when it belongs to a black individual?

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  15. Jonita

    The President stated what most were already thinking.."Only in America can a black man get arrested for being in his own home'...Even after showing ID with the address on it...The cop was Stupid..

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  16. Yankee Doodle

    This just shows that obama is like rev. wright and listened to his ranting for twenty years.He should have said nothing about a situation he knew nothing about. How does he know that the police acted stupidly, probabaly more like the prof. acted arrogantly. Really suprised old spotlight sharpton has not started stirring things up even more, every time theres a hint that a black got wronged in some way, he's johnny on the spot. I guess keeping things stirred up keeps him in a job.

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  17. Kate in SW Fla

    yeah, let's whip up as much racial hatred and unrest as possible from this. Not "political?" hah

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  18. Russ

    Apparently the GOP is attempting suicide (again). There was nothing wrong with Obama's remarks. I made similar remarks as soon as I heard about the stupidity and I'm white. Every American should be upset at what happened because in this country you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty and the police just don't seem to get that. Furthermore, the guy was in his own house expressing his first amendment rights of freedom of speech. I know if it happened in my house, that cop would have been arrested for trespassing just walking into the house and I hope it occurs in this case too.

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  19. James Jenkins

    People simply believe what they want to believe, I on the other hand deal in reality every waking minute of the day. Police officers, politicians simply people with titles are always given the benefit of the doubt based on their title. I recognize clearly that people always support the lesser of two evils. That is to say, police officers, steal, lie, rob, sell drugs or just simply do the same thing criminal do. the difference is that they do it under the protection and color of law. If you think there is a difference, just look at the wide range of people with titles who were arrested today in New Jersey. If you still think having a title makes you a god, it's always your option to blind your self.

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  20. Angela TX

    "Stupidly", politically, incorrect choice of word for a president. Aside of politics, he was right in calling it what it is.

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  21. kaleto

    Race was a factor only because Gates made it so. If you ask me, Gates is the racist.

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  22. Terry

    1. The President should have stopped his comments when he said that he didn't know all of the details.
    2. Having worked for many years with minoritiies, I have seen first hand how many minorities are extremely more racially biased than the majority of anglos. When I would point out a mistake or violation of a workplace policy many of them would throw out the "you are just picking on me because I am black" or " that must be a white thing".
    Why would Professor Gates have used the comment if he wasn't actually more racist than the policeman.
    3. Racism will never go away until the peole who use it as a crutch or criticism quit using it.

    July 23, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  23. Shorn

    It's just like the Republicans to defend racist police tactics. Way to go. Again. Now stop asking why there are so few black Republicans.

    July 23, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. Steven

    Good for the President. He merely told the truth about the relationship between minorities (racial, ethnic, religious and sexual) and the law enforcement community.

    July 23, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  25. gc3333

    D'ohbama should have read his teleprompter before responding to this question. Unfortunately for him, his response exposes his own racial bias and his arrogance and lack of experience as an elected official in dealing with such sensitive issues. As Hillary said last year, his only qualification for the presidency is that he "gave a speech". He has proven her to be 100% right.

    July 23, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
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