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. Adrian

    I am with President Obama. If the officers had identified prof. Gates as the owner of the house, then they were being stupid and I'd go as far as saying racist. Would they have acted the same way if the "suspects" were white. My guess is no.
    In general I respect police officers. But not all of them reserve that respect. Just as not all of them are racist idiots.

    July 23, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  2. Patrick

    Oh, here we go again. Everything always has to be about race nowadays, doesn't it? Hmm, let's see, there was a guy who appeared to be trying to force his a way through a locked door and a witness standing outside the house telling the police that the "burgler" had made his way. But I guess the police should have just ignored all of that and done nothing, huh? Some people really need to stop taking this "us against them" mentality and grow up!

    July 23, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  3. MW

    It was a stupid act by the police.

    July 23, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  4. Val

    Common sense tells you that the President is right. No one would want to be arrrested in his own home. Duh!

    July 23, 2009 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  5. TN for Obama

    WHY were the charges dropped........lack of evidence?????

    July 23, 2009 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  6. xavier

    Amen brother. The only way racism will ever end is by facing it down when it happens.

    July 23, 2009 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  7. KP

    I believe an objective review of both parties might prove useful in this case.

    July 23, 2009 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  8. phil

    Crowley should be suspended until an investigation is done.

    July 23, 2009 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  9. John Reuter

    The only one stupid in this issue is Obama for saying he didn't have all the facts and then proceeds to judge.

    July 23, 2009 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  10. Mike in NYC

    The Great One admits that he doesn't know what role, if any, race played in this incident, but that didn't stop him from making a sweeping remark about racial profiling, which, to be honest, is just using racial crime statistics to guide one's actions.

    It's interesting that Crowley teaches a class on profiling and racial sensitivity, and was chosen for that by a black police commissioner.
    If the account in his [Crowley's] report is even partially accurate, it's clear that Gates has taken a giant step toward reinforcing racial stereotypes.

    July 23, 2009 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  11. aj

    whats so stupid about arresting a man for disorderly conduct in the middle of the night?

    July 23, 2009 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  12. joey

    whether or not Obama is correct on this it is not his position to say childish things like that to someone that works for the government. he is just trying to get people on his side to make his approval raiting go back up.

    July 23, 2009 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  13. Tatianna

    Those who have criticized Obama are of course right to do so, and those who have been offended by his remarks are entitled to feel aggrieved. It bugs me that a we have an Ivy League graduate, reputed to be brillant, well-read, and gifted with oratory as POTUS, that can not think faster than his lips move. The issue is not what he said – the issue is that it wasnt apparent to him how his comment would be perceived before it left his mouth. I simply do not get the universal belief in this guys genius.

    July 23, 2009 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  14. jon

    I think it was the pres who acted stupidly to prejudge the incident and insisted he was right to do so. He is the pres not a race commentator like someone called Al.It was not presidential to make the insensitive joke he made at a televised news conference.we all should support the police officer to maintain laws and orders in this country.

    July 23, 2009 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  15. Bongets Gallardo

    Obama is acting un-presidential! He should know first the fact before opening his mouth.

    July 23, 2009 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  16. 1enckore

    Whatever the situation was the police officer could have ended this with a simple an "sorry, this is a misunderstanding and there is no need to raise your voice, blablabla have a good day sir.. simple.. but hey he had to pull the guy from his house. The police officer should be the one getting arrested.. what about the fool that don't even know their neighbor. ...

    Obama I hope you don't get re-elected, I think your live will be much better off in WHITE America...

    Police does not necessarily me RIGHT... Media need to take a seat back

    July 23, 2009 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  17. ck1

    How on Earth can you be arrested for disorderly conduct in your own home? I think the comments by the President are being taken too much to heart, when we should be learning from this and not getting our wittle feewings hurt and breaking out into foolish he said, she said commentary. I believe Gibbs, when he says the arresting officer was not stupid. How many times have we all acted by what we all considered to be the right way at the moment and in retrospect thought we wish we had handled it differently (i.e. not stupidly). We all make mistakes, the Cambridge PD should accept their responsibility and focus on better handling of similar situations in the future.

    July 23, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  18. endlessly amused

    You know who else acted stupidly? President Zero. He should have kept his nose out of it. He should be focused on HIS crumbling economy and brushing up on his ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth. That health care press conference yesterday was a complete disaster.

    July 23, 2009 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  19. moosehead

    The media as usual is fanning this into a a contraversy. The President called it the way he saw it,... get over it , and start reporting the real news.

    July 23, 2009 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  20. sam

    Police should not be happy to arrest people just for the fun of it, but rather work with us to resolve and protect us the people. I also think the education qualification to be a police officer should be set to a degree for them to make sound decision within a short time period.
    Thanks to all good cops.

    July 23, 2009 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  21. NC

    Race Card Race Card Race Card....................get off of it already.

    July 23, 2009 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  22. walker

    The bigger issue is a cop who thinks he is above normal human interaction. The issue became "I have the badge and the gun". Mr Getes (black or white) was in a no win situation and it happens far more frequently than any police department in the USA has the guts to admit. The police are bullies, arrogant, and think they are God. Enough.

    July 23, 2009 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  23. walker

    The bigger issue is a cop who thinks he is above normal human interaction. The issue became "I have the badge and the gun". Mr Gates (black or white) was in a no win situation and it happens far more frequently than any police department in the USA has the guts to admit. The police are bullies, arrogant, and think they are God. Enough.

    July 23, 2009 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  24. gfoos

    Poor choice of words. So what. Everyone agrees we have the right to say what we want in our own homes without fear of arrest... Bad choice by the cop, the guy he cuffed (whatever he did to escalate the eituation), and Obama, who,at the end of this intense evening, was a bit weary. Nuf said, move on.

    July 23, 2009 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  25. M3guy

    Not sure what a big deal is about. Obama should have called them PIGS, not stupid.

    Police cannot barge into someones home and arrest without warrant. We don't live in Police state.

    July 23, 2009 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
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