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. Anonymous

    Don't see a big difference between Obama and Biden. Both have problem with taking before thinking. I guess, Obama spoke without his prompter.

    July 23, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  2. it's a tough job

    It amazes me what officers face on the job every day. It is a very tough job and many times the officer has no idea what another person's intentions are no matter how clean cut they appear(again nothing to do at all with any color). If (I say if because there seem to be many gaps of info in this story) Gates was that uncooperative then what did everyone expect the officer to do? Say ok and walk down the sidewalk? Anybody can get tempermental–even a professor.
    Let's get the whole story before we start demanding and questioning judgment here.

    July 23, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  3. Peter

    Sgt. Crowley is a true professional and is being unfairly maligned for performing his duties as a police officer. He was handpicked by the former Cambridge Police Commissioner lead diversity courses for the police department and he has been teaching a course in racial profiling for police at a local college for 5 years now. If anyone understands procedures and appropriate responses to highly-charged situations, Sgt. Crowley is the man. Unfortunately, Professor Gates' reactions got him into trouble. It is he who is the instigator of this situation, and now it is he who wants to capitalize on his righteous indignation. Shame on the President for not showing the mettle to recognize his error and rectify it.

    July 23, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  4. Anne

    Had Gates acted as a responsible citizen and complied with the officer's requests he wouldn't have been arrested. Obama should have kept his mouth shut. As it is both played the race card-something which has become over used to the point of having little if any credibility, anymore.

    July 23, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  5. Doug, Seattle, WA

    Call'em as you see'em Mr. President!!!

    July 23, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  6. Rick

    Obama needs to stay out of local issues. He enough messes of his own to clean up. Enough with phony and contrived racism issues already. This is simply a case of a professor with a phony specialty thinking he is above the law.

    July 23, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  7. Ryan

    Gates already showed his harvard ID and still they dragged him away in handcuffs.

    How would you like it to get dragged out of your own house even after the police already knew it's yours.

    And Gates being a professor just happens to be bad luck for this stupid cop .

    The republicans are using this for their own benefit, so now it is not allowed to get angry in your own house ????

    If Gates would have walked out his house with a gun in his hand he would have been a dead guy I guess.

    July 23, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    or is he saying what he is saying because this is his friend?

    July 23, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  9. Keith

    Obama is right on with this comment he made. It was stupidity on the part of the police to escalate a situation that ended in this result when the whole point of them being at that home to start with was to protect the very same person they arrested.

    If the police in this situation don't like their actions labeled as stupidity then they shouldn't do stupid things.

    July 23, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  10. BushRuled

    Amazing how the "president" called a P.D stupid.What kind of message is that sending? he should have passed on answering that question. btw gates wasnt arrested for showing id.he was acting disorderly.THATS WHAT GOT HIM CUFFED! we all thought biden always stuck his foot in his mouth when he opened it.i guess obama isnt just learning how to be president but also how to eat his foot too

    July 23, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  11. P.Y.

    Crowley comes across as being arrogant. With his experience I really think he could have handled this situation better. I do not think that President Obama has to issue an apology to him. In addition, the president did not call him stupid. What he said was that the police handled the situation " stupidly ". There really is a difference.

    July 23, 2009 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  12. Stuffit

    "I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts...."

    He provides commentary in the same manner he's trying to run the country. Not sure what all's in any of these bills that pass, but is sure they're going to work. I thought ALL of the blue bloods in Cambridge, (Harvard town USA) had been to sensitivity training and were sophisticated libs.

    July 23, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  13. Donnygull

    Of course the flatfoot that made the arrest claims Gates yelled at him. WHAAAAAAA! Cry me a river. Of course He felt threatened by this scholar. Doesn't take to many brains to be a copper. Police=biggest street gang in the world.

    July 23, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  14. SamSunny

    I have no doubt the Professor was angry and probably said things he didn't need to say. But, after finding out it was his residence, and he was an older man with a cane, I have to agree, arresting him for disorderly conduct sounds rather ridiculous.

    July 23, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  15. gronk

    The point is the President did not have all the facts. He has more to do that entertain his simple mind on the simple things of the Cambridge Police Department responding to a home invasion that were doing their job.

    July 23, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  16. Andrew

    This is not something a POTUS should be commenting on. He clearly did not know all the facts and was pandering to certain people.

    July 23, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  17. barrystash

    Mr. Obama has an obvious problem. He is either a racist or he doesn't know that the American people get information from sources other than the White House. It stance makes no sense.

    July 23, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  18. GG

    I am tired of the black card

    its time for the
    white card
    latino card
    asian card

    yes injustice was done in this country towards blacks.....but look at other nations...were people faced difficulties, aparthied, holocaust, genocide, starvation....they come to this country work hard...they don't play any card

    yet we still get the black card played

    if anyone deserves to the play the card in America....its the Native Americans!!

    July 23, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  19. Hopeful Optimist

    I'm getting sick of a news media with apparently not enough to keep busy without trying to play gotcha with Obama. He said what he said and meant what he meant, and there's no other say to parse it. Get a life CNN; you're demonstrating that you have no more legitimacy than FAUX News.

    I would have reacted the same way as Gates under the same set of circumstances, and I'm white, sixty one years old and very middle class. Of course I haven't met too many cops that I admire, I must admit. I've always kinda wondered what it is in someone's personality makeup that makes them wanna be a cop - control freaks I guess.

    July 23, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  20. NV

    President "acted stupidly" when he interjected himself in a situation he doesn't know all the facts about.

    July 23, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  21. Lib Syndrome

    Gulp gulp gulp gulp....mmmmm! That Kool-Aid tastes great, doesn't it? Obama even said at the press conference last night that he "didn't know the facts of the case." Quit believing everything the media tells you idiot.

    July 23, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  22. Bye bye O-Bongo

    And if this was a white guy this wouldn't have even be news worthy...

    July 23, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  23. uli moolie

    I think the prez is dead wrong on this one...take any same situation of a police officer responding to a call and the person repeatedly saying do you know who I am........will eventually get arrested....should have thrown the havard idiot in jail for a week for his actions...

    July 23, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  24. Craig Green

    Good for you Mr. President.. Just goes to show why I voted for you...

    July 23, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  25. Patrick

    This might have an upside to it. Maybe now he'll forget about ruining our healthcare system and raising taxes and focus his misguided energies on reforming the nations law enforcement practices. Sorry coppers, he's YOUR problem now!

    July 23, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9