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. dustin

    anytime you get arrested for breaking into your home, a cop acted stupidly.

    July 23, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  2. John

    Reminds me of the Connecticut Police Department that refused to hire a trainee because he scored too high on the intelligence test! Obama called it as it was – just plain stupid on the part of the police. Oops, I better watch out cause the police may arrest me for calling them names!

    July 23, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  3. Mike M

    By his own admission Obama doesn't have all the facts so he, of all people, should have kept his mouth shut until all sides are heard. What a jerk!

    July 23, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  4. Randy

    What a pos Obama is, you probably should not act like a child and scream and yell at police officers. When they ask you something do it, should have tazered him.

    July 23, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  5. Bob from Pittsburgh

    He spoke before knowing all the facts..

    We must support the police by getting all the facts before making a judgement..

    Unfortunate the President did not do so..

    However the president is allowed to make some mistakes..

    July 23, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  6. Sean

    They did act stupidly. A man can't get upset at being accused of breaking and entering when he's already showed proof that it's his own home? That shouldn't be an arrestable offense in the U.S.

    July 23, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  7. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    Bravo, President Obama! Stupid is as stupid does ... and when someone does something stupid, they should be called out for it. I mean, really ... George W. Bush never said anything that didn't raise a few eyebrows or criticism?

    July 23, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  8. Craig

    i have been an Obama supporter but i am very unhappy about this. the race issue is taking a very interesting turn. it's as if the prez is playing his own race card. very disappointing. he didn't have to choose between supporting police doing their job or an arrogant ivory-tower academic who happens to be a fellow african-american, but he did and we see where his own bias is. unsettling when it's the prez who lacks support for police doing their job.

    July 23, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  9. Wanderer

    This is what I understood about his remark ‘stupidly’. I didn’t see anywhere Obama stated the police officer was stupid. I didn’t think the police officer was racist, either. But if I were the police, I would not handcuff a man with a cane who was almost helpless.

    July 23, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  10. Steve

    If I along with a friend bashed in my front door and police arrived to check on it... I would be grateful and be quick and respectful in showing them an id and doing what they ask. How is a police officer to know who may be in the house, and if they have a weapon.

    At about age 16, I learned that it doesn't pay to talk back to or irritate a police officer. And certainly to have the good sense not to try to impress them with your "importance." I'm with the police on this one.. regardless of the color of the officer or person arrested.

    July 23, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  11. Shingo

    A question was asked and Obama didn't back away. He stated his opinion from the facts that he knew and said upfront he didn't know them all. Now everyone is saying this cop was a profiling expert. Is the cop a profiling expert because he was trained where in that area? Did he go to the FBI academy? Really? Because he taught it or practised it? If nothing else the cop showed lack of discretion.

    July 23, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  12. I used to be a Democrat

    I have never agreed with Obama on any subject whatsoever until now. The officer acted stupidly and he should be fired.

    July 23, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  13. Ann Marie Lagonegro

    I believe that the issues should not be hidden and that if indeed the situation is as reflected, then it is critical that all people comment on the inappropriatenss of such action, especially, people in power. Instead of condeming the president, we should be condeming people who are not speaking out and hold offices of influence.

    July 23, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  14. bernice

    When a cop responds to a call of breaking and entering he has to determine if the one breaking in is supposed to be there even if he is the owner. Is there a restraining order against him? Is that why he was breaking in? These questions can be resolved in minutes with co-operation on the part of the one breaking in. I believe Gates saw a chance for publicity and caused a disturbance on purpose. The cop was just doing his job.

    July 23, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  15. Jenn H

    The fact that our president is completely disregaurding that his friend was unruly and angtagonized the police, shows how out of touch with the common man he is. We "little people" would go to jail without the charges being dropped. You simply don't behave agressively towards the police no matter what your age or race is. It is astounding that our commander in chief doesn't understand that. The fact that he doesn't shows he must be living by different rules than the common folk in America. How disappointing.

    July 23, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  16. paul mooney

    what a ploy! The President is a tactical genius. First, he spends the entire press conference saying practically zero about his health plan and knowing that the press will be all over him on that issue the next day, he askes his last predetermined question on the Gates case and turns today's news to race relations. when you know how to do it, and he is an expert at it, it is so easy to manipulate the press.

    July 23, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  17. Collins

    I'm glad that Obama has finally shown how juvenile he really is. How can a man in his position makes comments about something that happened when he was no where to be seen. How can Obama make judgment on this when he has none of the real facts and really hasn't even tried to find both sides of the story. All hail King Obama, he is the all knowing, omnipresent savior of us all.....What a freaking moron we have for a president. Can we please have George Bush back.

    July 23, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  18. William

    What is enough? The fact that a caucasion American person can't step on an African American's toes without it being called racist or uncalled for. But when it happens the other way around it is okay? I think that is enough. Obama talked to quickly and judgted before he said what he said quote I wasn't there "seeing all the facts". Come on the race card is thown out there by both sides WAY TO MUCH.

    July 23, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  19. Quantico Cat

    Obama seems determined to convince us all that this was a big mistake.

    July 23, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  20. Juliette

    Did anyone listen to Sgt James Crowley's response to what the President said.." I did not vote for him.' . That was his first statement and he claims he is not racist. Well, Sgt James Crowley I was on your side until you made your sad statement. The president and other minorities are tired of racial profiling. So I think we should move on.

    July 23, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  21. Sherrie Eugene, Oregon

    At least we have ONE man in power paying attention and not turning the other cheek to the wrongs, injustices and corruptions that have been a rampant spreading problem in this country for far too long!

    Thank God for President Obama who isn't buying into the b.s. just because "they" say so! Too many of "us" KNOW better... and it MUST STOP!

    July 23, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  22. Tex Calhoun

    I though Obama was supposed to be a smart guy!

    He admits he doesn't have all the facts, yet he publicly condemns the police officer.

    Yet, for some reason, he doesn't see why people have issues with that.

    July 23, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  23. republicans hate america

    only the rush limbaugh party and the fascists police would agree its ok to manhandle an elderly weakling. Too bad they never have the balls to do this when its people they know can actually be dangerous.

    July 23, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  24. navarius mombo

    Obama is right to callthe situation stupid. period. call jack a jack

    July 23, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  25. chris from savannah

    If he was truly unprejudial, he would have just said, I have not viewed the facts in the case, and no comment.... but that those were not his words.... shows bias....

    July 23, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
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