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. ike

    I'm glad Obama said what he said. Enough is Enough!!!!

    July 23, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  2. Todd Barrow

    This shows Obama is first to throw out that race card... Seems he is the racist one here! He could do that officers job for one day! Kudos to the officer, shame on the scholar, and expected from Obama!

    July 23, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    First of all, lets get real – those "I want my freedom and liberty and my 100 guns to go along with – stay away from me evil government" have been, what, shooting at police officers out their windows that dare come up their driveways? You want anyone the nut cases on here would happily accept a police officer at their door questioning whether that is their residence, eventually arresting them?

    Another news station read the transcripts of what happened at the residence. The prof wasn't that cooperative, but he was by no mean beligerant. In fact, the sides seemed to be unhappily dealing with each other until the professor was calling the chief of police to report that an officer was wrongly in his house, not showing his badge, and harassing him. After he had proved he lived at the residence. Don't want to look bad with the boss though, right officer?

    An old black man, with a cane, in his own house, and arrested. Cambridge police immediately withdrew the charges and apologized, which never would happen unless it WAS something REAL STUPID. Thanks for not taking the politically safe way out Obama.

    July 23, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  4. susanspics

    First of all, lets get real – those "I want my freedom and liberty and my 100 guns to go along with – stay away from me evil government" have been, what, shooting at police officers out their windows that dare come up their driveways? You want anyone the nut cases on here would happily accept a police officer at their door questioning whether that is their residence, eventually arresting them?

    Another news station read the transcripts of what happened at the residence. The prof wasn't that cooperative, but he was by no mean beligerant. In fact, the sides seemed to be unhappily dealing with each other until the professor was calling the chief of police to report that an officer was wrongly in his house, not showing his badge, and harassing him. After he had proved he lived at the residence. Don't want to look bad with the boss though, right officer?

    An old black man, with a cane, in his own house, and arrested. Cambridge police immediately withdrew the charges and apologized, which never would happen unless it WAS something REAL STUPID. Thanks for not taking the politically safe way out Obama.

    July 23, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  5. Keith, CO

    If the professor was white, would the police have left him alone once he showed identification, or would they have arrested him for expressing his outrage?
    I guess the real question must be, Is it more acceptable when a white person loses his temper then when a black person {Or minority}dose?

    July 23, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  6. BJ in Nc

    What President Obama said was very appropriate. I am sick and tired of "some" people saying what they want but try to dissect every word that flows out of the mouth of the President. The police officer, once it was established that Mr. Gates did live at that residence, should have simply stated that they were checking out a complaint. However having been on the receiving end of the high and mighty and condescending tone from a police officer, I can understand the outrage that Mr. Gates felt. The warped, racist, one sided thinking that is so pervasive that those thinking it cannot extend their thoughts beyond the tip of their nose. The other thing that really irks me is that the most outspoken of those thought processes, namely Rush Limbaugh and Liz Cheney, spoutstheir venom daily on talk radio and 'AMERICA' seems to think nothing of it.

    July 23, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  7. Clugs

    Until all the facts are out I'd prefer he stick to fixing the economy. To weigh in on this only because it was a white cop and a black professor isn't fair.

    July 23, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  8. Ava from Florida

    President Obama was CORRECT! The cop is a bully......anyone would be angry.

    July 23, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  9. BK

    Obama is a racist. He is the president of minority's, not the USA.

    July 23, 2009 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  10. lkb

    Poor judgement Obama.....know the facts before you speak. Odd how he holds comments on human rights issues but takes a national forum for a friend.

    July 23, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  11. Slider

    I understand that during the "press conference" Obama said that he didn't have all the details; nevertheless, it didn't stop him from making a statement.

    It's kinda like his healthcare and stimulus proposals. Again, he states he didn't read the bills; doesn't know everything about them, but signs them into law nonetheless.

    We got a real smart one here, folks. As smart as the people who voted for him, and that's being generous.

    July 23, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  12. Susan

    Obama's comments were very un Presidential and he is now having his spokesmen back track for him. From all I have heard the officer responded appropriately, and Professor Gates let his outrage get out of line; and remember he was not arrested for suspicion of breaking into a home, but for disturbing the peace.
    We all need to respond co-operatively to police questioning. Hurling abuse at the police is not something one would expect from a man of Professor Gates' stature.
    If he had responded calmly to the Officer's questions, none of this sorry state of affairs would have transpired.

    July 23, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  13. Bama Boy

    i am glad obama said what he said also, now he is showing people where the real racism is now, in the white house.

    July 23, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  14. jcow

    I think Obama should have all the facts before he makes a comment about the situation. Especially considering Gates is his friend.

    July 23, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  15. mike

    That's an awfully arrogant statement, especially from an individual in his position, and even more arrogant to stand behind it the next day.

    July 23, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  16. AP

    I am so sick of the fake outrage. The police were out of line.

    July 23, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  17. Bob Owolabi

    President Obama expressed his opinion, which he is entitled to. In the words of Herbert Spencer, "Opinion is ultimately determined by the feelings, and not by the intellect." May be he should not have, being president of the United States. It only shows that the President of the United States is not superhuman, but a regular 'folk' like the rest of us....with feelings!

    July 23, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  18. Ernie in LA

    He opened his mouth before his brain was in gear. How can he say whenever he was not there?

    July 23, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  19. mattie

    Of course he does, race trumps everything. So what if he doesn't know what happened, or that he is insulting the police of America.
    This man just had to produce an ID, and he wouldn't, he was insulting, loud and combative, yet the police are wrong.

    July 23, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  20. jrzshor

    could he get this angry with, let's say, north korea?

    July 23, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  21. Brad of IL.

    Once again he talks and looks like the idiot he is. Responding too a possible home invasion and finding a person there , what should he have done? Shoot . The officer asked for ID and the person gets a attitude. Maybe if this so called Professor would have just done what he was asked too do there would not have been a problem in the first place. Just too bad Obama the idiot had too speak out before he spoke this trash. I was surprised we didn't see Jesse Jackson or the Al Sharpton there . Maybe they couldn't see enough money in it for them . Keep up the good job Obama , you are not going too get elected the next time. People are opening there eyes and looking through the smoke and mirrors .

    July 23, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  22. tolerance

    I am not glad Obama made a public declaration on this–he clearly chose sides w/o hearing the whole story. Very poor judgment on his part. Would anyone out there care to be a policeman and endure what these guys have to put up with? These guys risk their lives daily. Apparently, Gates was acting belligerent–most people would be happy that the police came to protect their property. Gates is himself guilty of racial profiling. Passing judgment according to race is a two-way street. Seems to me Gates could use a class on tolerance, self-control, and acting "stupidly" himself.

    July 23, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  23. Cops are Corrupt

    Cops act unlawfully and get away with it all the time, It's nice to see them being called out once in awhile.

    July 23, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  24. Loretta

    Once the the Officer had sufficient evidence that Professor Gates was the actual owner of the house he should have left.

    Why didn't he just leave?

    July 23, 2009 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  25. Dameun

    Wow Kiran,

    Great point and what an effective way to make it; by demonstrating the same behavior of which you supposedly abhor. I guess you have intellectually bested Mr. Roland Martin who was a commentator on CNN before Obama ran for president and Soledad O'Brien who is a well respected journalist. Bra-VO!!

    July 23, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
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