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. Robert

    Of course this arrogant empty suit would stand by his racist words......Rev Wright should be very proud. Just what alot of people do – make comments without knowing all the facts! Too bad this guy is in office – I liked it so much better when we had people in office who did not use race as their crutch!

    July 23, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  2. TC

    I think it's completely irrelevant that you could make a book out of the man's resume. What we have is yet another arrogant loudmouth liberal activist taking advantage of a situation to further his agenda at the expense of a veteran officer with a squeaky clean record. I'm siding with the officer because I think it's clear here who's got the agenda, and I believe the officer was doing his job to the best of his abilities by following procedure.

    July 23, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  3. me

    by the way why was Mr. Gates so angry? The policeman was just doing his job = protecting his home...

    July 23, 2009 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  4. Sue

    How could such a brilliant Harvard lawyer be so stupid? Guess it was above his pay grade. But then, what isn"t?

    July 23, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  5. Joe P.

    Sometimes if you don't know all the facts, and you are the President of the United States, you should just keep your mouth shut.

    July 23, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  6. Chris from NY

    Every body else is right and are not apologizing except the black President right? The top cop said the officer did the right thing and the media is playing this as loud as they can and want the President to apologize. Give me a break. Even the way Obama is being treated by the media is biased. You could see it the faces of some reporters especially some of you on CNN. I am glad the President said what he said. Good riddens.

    July 23, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  7. Tom

    Having read the police report, the only interesting thing is that Prof Gates was arrested for "disorderly conduct in a public place".

    This happened, only AFTER Prof Gates had properly presented ID that he WAS IN HIS OWN HOME.

    It's commonly known, that the police will "ask you to step outside" of a private residence to arrest based on "disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace".

    The office and Prof Gates were both inside the home, and had already concluded a burglary wasn't taking place.

    At that point, the officer should have wished prof Gates a good evening and LEFT HIS HOME!

    July 23, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  8. Lionel

    If I showed my ID that I lived in a residence and I get arrested, of course I would be upset. It was a very stupid thing for the policeman to have done and shows that racial profiling still exist.

    July 23, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  9. T22

    One more constituency lost. I wonder who will be following this guy in a year?

    July 23, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  10. ketan shah

    I think both guys are stupid as they did not respect each other

    July 23, 2009 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  11. gl, Pittsburgh

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

    July 23, 2009 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  12. Rich

    There is nothing wrong with what the president said. I am 100% behind Obama.

    July 23, 2009 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  13. Reality

    If Gates was a white man, this would not be news.

    If Gates was Mexican, Japanese, Peruvian, Argentinian, Chilean, Greek, or any race color or creed other than black, Mr Obama would not care.

    Double standards, not equality, are the reality of race relations in the US.

    July 23, 2009 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  14. Tommy

    The President called the actions of the officer as it was: stupid. Any
    white person, myself included, would have been infuriated, the only
    difference being, the cops would have "understood" my reaction, and
    offered an immediate apology, and hoped he had a job the next day.
    I'm also glad I at least taken a moment to know what my neighbors look
    like. That neighbor who had "mistaken" him for a burglar should also feel pretty stupid, go "introduce" themselves, and apologize.

    July 23, 2009 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  15. Pat C.

    I applaud Sgt. Crowley and hope he isn't pressured to apologize for doing his job. Obama is the one who "acted stupidly" by not supporting the police officer and for giving his opinion without all of the facts. I wonder how many times Nobama has played the race card.
    Gates could have nipped this in the bud, by following Sgt. Crowley's instructions and by supplying his ID when asked. Gates should have been thanking that officer for responding to the burglary call to check on his property. He would be singing a different tune if the home was actually being broken into and the police did nothing. He'd probably yell racism in that instance as well.
    Obama should offer Sgt. Crowley and the entire Cambridge Police Department an apology. But he won't since Gates is his friend and a "brotha".

    July 23, 2009 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  16. RNC countdown in 5,4,3,2,1....

    President Obama,

    Keep your eyes on your supporters, we are there and we are not sleeping

    July 23, 2009 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  17. NICE REAL NICE

    why does POTUS have statements about police protocol in localities.

    why does POTUS have protocol for surgeons regaring tonsilectomies

    the economy is loosing 100's of thousands of jobs per month and not gaining any.... THIS SHOULD BE HIS PRIORITY, WHAT IS HIS PROBLEM?

    July 23, 2009 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  18. cgsailor

    It boils down to whether you believe the written statement submitted by the police or the verbal statements made by Mr. Gates. The President believed Jeremiah Wright 's rantings so it doesn't surprise me he believes Mr. Gates. BTW, all the actual evidence supports the police version, which makes the President look pretty silly (or "stupid").

    July 23, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  19. suzyku

    President Obama said absolutely nothing incorrect. He said IF the police didn't follow proper procedure then they acted stupidly and if that's true, they did!

    July 23, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  20. Dante

    obama's own words say it all....."I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts" ( he should have stopped here) , "what role race played in tha case" ( uh oh, here we go)...."the Cambridge police acted stupidly" ( and how does he know this?)......obama's problem is clear.....an "impromptu" question is too much for him without his teleprompter......kinda sad actually.....he's lucky his poor choice of words didn't inflame the situation further.........now lets wait to hear from gibbs et al to know what he really meant to say and it shouldn't take too long to program the teleprompter with a more reasoned, albeit fake response....

    July 23, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  21. Elmer

    Just wondering... a comment by a leader that labels an entire police department as stupid, seems to mirror the bigotry that racists display; generalizing about a whole when a few parts may be bad (which we should wait until we have the facts to deternmine which few). No wonder these problems continue...looks like everybody is to blame.

    July 23, 2009 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  22. Paul

    It's totally inappropriate for the President to comment on the cambridge, MA police issue. He's demeaning the office to which he was elected.

    July 23, 2009 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  23. CL OT

    After reading the reports it is obvious that the professor was out of line and deserved to be arrested. If I was in that situation, I would be cooperating with the police because they are just trying to protect me and it appears that they did everything right. It seems like Gates is the raciest and very immature.

    July 23, 2009 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  24. J Haigh

    I'm an Obama man but in this instance he is dead wrong. To call the police stupid without knowing the facts is not too smart and I'll bet right now that the President wishes he would have kept his remarks to himself.

    Who knows? Perhaps Gates is the racist and provoked the police> It wouldn't be the first time something of this nature has happened!

    July 23, 2009 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  25. Karl in Charleston,SC

    It's RACE and nothing more. The president wasn't there and the facts of the "case" would have been decided by a jury. You can't have it both ways, Mr. President, either you want people to obey the police or you ant them to "stand up" to the police. We the people now know what you want.

    July 23, 2009 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
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