July 23rd, 2009
06:04 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama stands by 'acted stupidly' comment

President Obama on Thursday stood by a statement he made Wednesday night that a Massachusetts police officer 'acted stupidly' when arresting a prominent Harvard professor.
President Obama on Thursday stood by a statement he made Wednesday night that a Massachusetts police officer 'acted stupidly' when arresting a prominent Harvard professor.

(CNN) - President Obama is standing by his comment Wednesday night that a Massachusetts police officer 'acted stupidly' when he arrested Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"I have to say I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement, because I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary that you probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who's in his own home," Obama told ABC News Thursday.

In his prime time press conference Wednesday, Obama said he did not know all the facts of the case but added the Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer, Sgt. James Crowley, should not have arrested Gates once the notable African-American scholar provided identification.

"I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that [Gates case]," Obama said Wednesday. "But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home."

Critics, including Republican Party officials and the police officer involved in the matter, said Obama should not have rushed to such a judgment after he himself acknowledged he did not know all the facts.

In the interview with ABC, Obama called Crowley an "outstanding police officer," adding: "I think that I have extraordinary respect for the difficulties of the job that police officers do."

Earlier Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president "was not calling the [arresting] officer stupid. The situation got out of hand."


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (222 Responses)
  1. whiteP

    Osama stuck his foot is his mouth on that one. How many times has he alreadt lied to the american people. obama sucks

    July 23, 2009 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  2. 30m-PA-Dem

    Obama should have kept his mouth shut considering he didn't have all of the facts. He should be ashamed of himself for criticizing the police officer. Seems like Obama is playing the race card yet again.

    July 23, 2009 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  3. Barb

    Listen too how much worse Obama is making it sound, middle aged guy, cane, this shows how phoney Obama is....................lol. Truth is Obama needed too say something too impress African American's and Hyspanic's, he needs support for his health care plan, that question was planted at his press coverage, that question had nothing too do with healthcare, and should not have been answered.
    What would have happened if the police officer had left, and there was intruders in the house, and Gate's was hurt or killed, would the media say the officer failed too protect Gate's because he was black.

    July 23, 2009 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  4. Ralph

    Maybe the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. should have acted as a notable African-American scholar rather than actin' a fool. Respect given, respect received. "Gates told CNN Wednesday that although charges had been dropped, he will keep the issue alive." and by doing so, he will continue to divide rather than help unite this country.

    July 23, 2009 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  5. Tom

    For the Chief Executive Officer to call a law enforcement officer "stupid" before knowing any of the facts is outrageous.

    July 23, 2009 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  6. KO

    How would you feel if you were arrested breaking in TO YOUR OWN HOUSE?? Of course it was a stupid arrest...if this had happened to Rush Limbaugh we'd be hearing about government over-reach and a police state. Obama is just telling the truth. The Republicans' attack shows them at their trivial, race-baiting worst.

    July 23, 2009 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  7. Tess

    Obama should have not have voiced his opinion publicly while serving in the honorable office of President of the United States. It will only lead to further national racial discord instead of unifying the races as he promised to do during his campaigning. Also, I am sure this very highly educated man could have had better word choices instead of using the 4th grade vocabulary of "acted stupidly."

    July 23, 2009 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  8. bj, texas

    Dear Oblunder: You handled this situation exactly the same way you are handling the economy, foreign affairs and healthcare–without knowing all the facts. No wonder this country is going down the drain.

    July 23, 2009 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  9. OneWiseGuy

    Stupidly is probably being kind. One thing Obama is known for is telling the truth and he definitely did that. This officer probably needs to be suspended and hopefully will no longer be employed in that field.

    July 23, 2009 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  10. Biased

    Perhaps Obama should have stayed with his health care discussion and not commented on something he knew nothing about.. It was extremely disappointing to automatically take at face value that the arresting officer was stupid in doing what he did and then mention about blacks and hispanics – thereby implying he believed without any knowledge of the facts or proof that this just had to a racial incident. Very disappointing coming from the President, indeed.

    July 23, 2009 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  11. Gary

    I can't remember the last time an American President called a police officer stupid, for any reason.

    It's a crude bully's remark.

    July 23, 2009 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  12. Eddie

    Really Republicans are criticizing him I would of never of guessed it.

    Anyway good for Obama standing by what he said. Racial profiling is something that is still very real in this country and it has to stop.

    July 23, 2009 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  13. The power be with you

    I wish he had said, "inappropriately" instead of "stupidly."

    July 23, 2009 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  14. Richa

    Ok, can all of the small minds take a moment and grow large enough to analyze the words stated by President Obama. He said the officer "acted stupidly," not the officer was stupid. In other words, the officer's actions were stupid, but not the officer as a person.

    July 23, 2009 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  15. Theresa

    The President of the United States of America flamed a "racist" charge, without knowing the facts, without hearing 2-sides to the incident. That is either simple ignorance, or it is an audacious attempt to use the race card again to gain sympathy for himself and disarm everyone that attempts to criticize his policies. He has used this many times throughout climbing the political ladder, including on Bill Clinton, John McCain and Geraldine Ferraro. Either way he is pitting black Americans against white Americans and the President should treat us all as Americans. Shame, Mr. president

    July 23, 2009 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  16. Karla

    I think that man with such incredible speaking talents used really bad vocabulary in describing this situation reminds me of a Texan who stole an undeserevred place in the white house, vocabulary like that is unbecoming of a leader ofthe world.

    July 23, 2009 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  17. cedgar

    I just watched a interview, where Mr Crowley admitted getting into
    the police officers face and would do it again.
    That makes think he was probably out of line.
    The President should not ever take sides and make comments when he himself admits of not knowing all the facts. The President needs to
    remember he is the President of Untied States of America on national TV.
    The correct thing the President should have done is make a
    statement like this: I m not aware of ALL the facts, so I would not
    be able to comment on the matter! That is how he should have
    responded.

    July 23, 2009 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  18. Clear Message

    I think we should use the Republican energy theories to run our cars. Running on air or vacuum is a great idea!! Go get a live people, it’s time to grow up and get realistic. When you loss you don’t have to feel bad all your live. It’s important to stay positive and contribute to you country and get ready to second round. Obama is president of USA Democrat and yes, he is black.

    July 23, 2009 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  19. 60's survivor

    enough is enough!! we all have opinions. sometimes they are skewed by our personal experience. but we all can learn from this.
    move on. try to do better everyone!!

    July 23, 2009 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  20. JDG

    Obama is right.

    July 24, 2009 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  21. Tay

    Let me make sure I understand...in all of this whole matter President Obama is the one who's a racist? So, who is he profiling and subjugating, his white relatives or his black ones? You people kill me!

    July 24, 2009 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
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