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. David

    I think the president should have refrained from commenting on the police action – if they handcuffed a cane-using, older/middle-aged professor in his home, there was probably good reason. Instead of downplaying race, Obama is emphasizing it.

    July 23, 2009 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  2. LZ

    This cop has to be really stupid to go to someones house and arrest him as he broke into his own house. lol.. There needs to be some level of IQ (3rd grade is acceptable) test before they join the police force.

    July 23, 2009 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  3. Peter E

    The fact is that at no point did the officer say or do anything that was racially insensitive. It was Gates who started calling him a racist without cause. And racism is a very serious accusation. It is Gates who needs to apologize. Whatever Obama or the republicans say about this just to score political points is irrelevant.

    July 23, 2009 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  4. Mike b

    There seems to be two totally different stories,so let the GOP find something else to whine about.

    July 23, 2009 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  5. Robert, Miami, FL

    Time for everyone involved to let it go. The professor, the policeman, everyone. There's the "race lesson". Be bigger, don't even have it in you to be offended. Don't project racism on somebody and don't gratify it if you think it's there. Begone this story now, it's time to move on.

    July 23, 2009 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  6. Erik

    Obama truly showed his ignorance when he picked that question to answer. First he should stay out of a local police issue dealing with a local citizen (the same way he stayed out of the issue with his illegal aunt). Second, you don't comment on something you don't know the details of. He should have followed his own advice when from a couple of months ago when he snapped at a reporter in that same room and said he likes to know the whole story before he reacts to it.

    July 23, 2009 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  7. CnSC

    The police went to the house because a neighbor called them. It is their job to respond when a call comes in. They were not out cruising the neighborhood looking for a black man to arrest.

    July 23, 2009 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  8. Brandon

    Obama is unusually straightforward on this one, as he should be. Bravo!

    July 23, 2009 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  9. Limbaugh is a liberal

    When was the last time a white professor was arrested in their own home for the excuse of 'disorderly conduct?' NEVER, that's when! The neighbor who called the police would not have called them if it was a white professor, and the police would have been considerably more civil with a white man too.

    July 23, 2009 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  10. mike,texas

    Arrested for being obnoxious in your own house ,if thats american than america is facist.

    July 23, 2009 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  11. nate

    He didn't see all the facts, then how could he say the policeman act stupidly? This is really stupid!

    July 23, 2009 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  12. Brett

    I agree. More cops should die in the line of duty for fear of "glorious leader" (a man who has no legal authority over them) publically second guessing them after the fact.

    July 23, 2009 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  13. Scooter

    What do you expect. Hooray for the policeman standing up for his actions. Next time, let someone break into his house and steal everything.

    July 23, 2009 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  14. JoblessInSeattle

    What's all the "uproar" about? Don't you know this is how our leaders really view our law enforcers?

    July 23, 2009 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  15. SM

    When it's stupid, you call it stupid. This cop's behavior is an outrage. He needs to be fired. Obama was right not to play nice with words.

    July 23, 2009 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  16. David

    Among the 44 people arrested were the mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus, Jersey City's deputy mayor, and two state assemblymen. A member of the governor's cabinet resigned after agents searched his home, though he was not arrested. All but one of the officeholders are Democrats.

    July 23, 2009 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  17. jeremy

    i agree with Obama. i don't think a whit man would have been treated the same.

    July 23, 2009 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  18. Detroit Larry

    good for him because is was stupid for arresting someone for being loud in their own home

    July 23, 2009 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    as President he has no business making that comment. As I think he himself has acted stupidly since being sworn in office.

    July 23, 2009 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  20. NOBAMA

    Obama forgot to mention that one of the arresting officers was black. He also forgot to mention that Gates was screaming and disturbing the peace. I've seen a picture of the arrest and Gates was on the front porch playing to the crowd assembled on the sidewalk. I hope this idiot does sue the city of Cambridge, so witness testimony will be revealed.

    Maybe next time Obama will wait for the facts before going to the Jesse Jackson-Al Sharpton victim's playbook for guidance.

    July 23, 2009 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  21. Rami

    I agree with president Obama. The police did act stupidly. I am glad that we have a persident that calls it as he sees it. I have been the subject of profiling myself and I know how it feels. This kind of situation should not happen in the US anymore but the reality is that it does happen every day.

    July 23, 2009 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  22. joanna

    i support Obama 100%, but I think he should have declined comment about the issue until he was more informed. He's not a prefect man, sorry. I can see how one would be quick to bring up race with all the growing tension in race relations. What’s going on? We need to stop.

    I think it goes both ways here. This professor maybe did go over the line. I understand why he would. I also think the cop did the right thing. This cop didn’t know the professor; he could have been an estranged husband.

    I am not saying the professor is guilty of this, but some people do take advantage and wrongful accuse others of racial treatment.

    July 23, 2009 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  23. obama comment stupid

    Obama needs to know. the facts before he makes a stupid statment.

    July 23, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  24. donttreadonme

    Of course Obama spoke out the lib dem parties entire foundation is built on race-baiting, class warfare and religious intolerance.

    Big suprise that he would attack a police officer with out the facts. CNN why not report what the police report says? Why give only Gates side.

    July 23, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  25. Alvin

    Whether it was racial or not, once a man produces 2 pieces of ID which prove who he is, the cop should have said "Sorry. Have a nice day" and went on to arrest some real criminals! But noooooo! Gates didn't grovel enough and so the officer thought up a way to "legally" arrest him. I've given up on trying to get most whites to see how vicious this so-called legal system can be against black people. For some reason the cars and walls that i've been slammed into and the names that I've been called (at gun point) don't really matter. Whites don't care and I'm finally cool with that. But this was flat out stupid!!! There was no need for this and anyone who agrees with this is pushing our country towards becoming a police state. I don't know about you, but I'll take some "socialist" healthcare anyday!

    July 23, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
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