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.