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. Nonsense

    So glad we had that health care talk that now seems to be forgotten.

    July 23, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  2. Z

    Now, I don't condone prejudicial behavior, but when the President claims that there was "proof that they were in their own home" that the statement is totally at odds to the arrest statment that the man refused to present identification and was angry (don't blame the professor for that feeling) and comatative. Nowhere is there a statement that the professor proved at all that he was in his own home. He was tired, frustrated and generally worn out from the trip. The officer was attempting to verify that this unidentified individual was indeed in his own home after reports of a possible burglary at that address.

    July 23, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  3. Argon man

    Police racism has long been America's dirty little secret. These are not isolated incidents.

    July 23, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  4. Elizabeth NC

    I agree 100% with Pres Obama. The officer acted stupidly, foolishly, hatefully, ignorantly and now hearing his idiotic comments of not wanting/needing to apologize, arrogantly. I hope the nation as a whole is sick of this nonsense attitude from the so called authority to protect us. And yes to SGT Crowley, BLACK MEN AND WOMEN CAN GO TO SCHOOL BE HIGHLY EDUCATED AND LIVE IN UPSCALE NEIGHBORHOODS I 'M ONE OF THEM.
    Ps: I used to donate to the Police service in my state. Never again.

    July 23, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  5. Right Leaning Independent

    Obama, the first "openly" racist president that I have witnessed. Obama does not know the facts and therefore should not offer an opinion unless he has a tape he wants to share with the rest of us. I bet he would not have commented on this arrest if it was an old white man that he did not know! This is not a Republican/Democrat issue for those making it one. It is another sign of poor judgment by the president...

    July 23, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  6. AJ

    Obama is a disgrace. Perhaps if Gates had acted like a responsible adult instead of an angry black man with a line to the white house this would not have been a problem. And perhaps if Obama were interested in doing the right thing instead of appeasing the black vote it would not have been a problem. Talk about bad judgment. Perhaps Gates and Obama should examine their own motives.

    July 23, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  7. M Barbere

    If the prof wanted to be treated like a "white man" then he should have acted like one. How 'bout "Come in officer.. I will gladly wait outside while you secure my home. Thank you for responding to my neighbors request." If Mr Gates professes to be a gentleman and a scholar, then he might better demonstrate it better than by his beligerent behavior. Further, the president certainly should get all his facts straight before calling someone "stupid". Is this the way he runs the country, on half truths? Or is this just another opportunity for the black community to dredge up the past and hamper the future. If us white folks brought up the past as often as the black community there would be all manner of hell raised. Hardly an opportunity to look forward.

    July 23, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  8. timothy oleary

    Mr President. Please stay out of local politics and consentrate on our economy

    July 23, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  9. mrs b

    Think about it – how would anyone of any color liked to be handcuffed for entering their own home! Try this on some of the most verbal, right-wing talking heads and see what happens.

    July 23, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  10. PM

    We will see if he thinks the police is foolish if some "gentle" looking people approach his house or family and the police dont act !

    July 23, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  11. Little Rock

    You would know all there is to know about acting stupidly, wouldn't you Barry?

    July 23, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  12. jason, montana

    Obama is defending his friend Gates, the racist.

    It was highly irresponsible of Obama to make that statement. It undermines the authority of the entire Cambridge Police Department.

    An acceptable statement would have been 'I am not familiar with the facts of the case, so I cannot comment on it at this time.' Instead of insulting a police department and insinuating that the officer that arrested Gates was a racist.

    July 23, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  13. dee

    I think anyone of any race, religion, culture need to always be mindful of the tough job police have and the fact that they don't know you personally. They're not going to know if you're telling the truth or not, dangerous or not, when they first come onto a scene. Be respectful, cool-headed, mindful of the fact that they don't know you and calmly, peacefully, explain the situation and provide them with whatever proof you have to uphold your story. Most of their job is dealing with dishonest and dangerous people. Make your encounter with them easier, honest and truthful...

    July 23, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  14. Stanley

    It was an absolutely "stupid" thing to say and NOT very Presidential!

    July 23, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  15. Barbara

    I stand with the President. It was a Stupid thing to do-arrest a man in his own home after showing his identification. If that had been me I would have been irate too! Critics of President Obama are desperate to take any side issue and blow it out of proportion just to distract the public from what this great man is trying to accomplish. Truth is they don't want him to succeed. They don't want him to pass a much needed Health Care Reform package. With all the problems we are facing how dare they play such underhanded games. Guess they have nothing better to do.

    July 23, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  16. Don

    The only one acting stupidly is our President. Admitting, He "did not know all the facts" should have been his first clue. Instead of criticizing the police, he should have stated, I need to get all the facts before making an opinion.

    July 23, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  17. European-American

    Let's just look at the facts. Obama didn't have all the facts. Obama admitted he didn't have all the facts and yet he had enough information to rush to judgement against the police officer.
    Apparently, people with Harvard educations could never belligerent.
    Only average Americans, like this policeman.
    I guess that is why we average Americans need help from the elite.

    July 23, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  18. Tariq

    I would say "stupidly" is very accurately put and too generous for a sergeant.

    Did Crowley really think that a man as old as Gates walking around in a cane would break into any home, much less his own, in plain view? The stupidity has nothing to do with racism....but rather in not having the common sense or the empathy to realize how the misunderstanding agitated Gates.

    The officer should have swallowed his pride, apologized for the mistake, and not followed the police manual so "stupidly".

    July 23, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  19. John K.

    Obama never admits that he's wrong. Unfortunately, he's wrong nearly every time.

    July 23, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  20. Bobc

    Clearly Obama is not qualified to be President....this was not his business, and should have told the reporter so.

    He is not the mental giant some believe him to be.

    He is stoking race relations along with others, and it's time they stop it before they start riots!

    In my area there has never been a problem between races, I would hate to see people whipped into a frenzy because a few just keep stoking this.

    July 23, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  21. bert, Tampa

    Yeah, the last time I checked, the President is human. Why is society so apathetic towards Mr. Gates perspective on the situation.

    July 23, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  22. laurence

    ike, you couldn't be more right! prez "o" hit this one dead on the head. now the real racist are calling out for a race war of sorts. limbaugh will get his wish sooner then later when he gets thrown n the slammer for hate crimes in inciting racial violence. you think maybe we can get a few dozen of those repugs in congress who try to mask their real selves from the public eye?

    July 23, 2009 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  23. Jennifer

    The problem is that NO ONE should comment unless they know the facts (not one side of the story), especially the president. This is one comment from Obama that disappoints me.

    July 23, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  24. Maria - Proud Democrat

    I support the President, however, I DO NOT SUPPORT HIS STATEMENT about the Police.

    As he said he does not know the facts and using his power as President to support his friend Mr. Gates is abuse of power.

    The Police were doing there job and Mr. Gates was acting like a two year old throwing a tantrum. He refused several times to show his ID when asked, and then he continues to vebally attack the police officers.

    This issues is about a HUGE EGO dumfounded that the whole world doesn't know who he is and expected special treatment.......it's not about race. The police would have done the same thing if this person was White, Black, Hispanic or Asian.

    July 23, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  25. sad

    good! im glad Obama is standing by his word, there is nothing here for him to apologize for!

    July 23, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9