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. tom

    Mr. Obama will not get police to back him in another election, unless it is an all black police dept.

    July 23, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  2. Tweety Bird

    Embarassement to this country and the people who serve it.

    July 23, 2009 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  3. Jon in VA

    So here we have a President who weighed in on a simple incident because he was his friend. Good way to use your position as leader of our country to speak about things you clearly admitted you did not know the facts about. So now that Obama has set the standard of giving his official White House opinion on the actions of law enforcement we should be getting daily opinions of every action law enforcement does "stupidly." He was not speaking as a friend he was speaking as a President, and still is using the White House to make that clear. What a winner we have!

    July 23, 2009 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  4. Tim

    Everyone is entitled to there opinion. But the president of the Untied States has bigger things to worry about than what happened in Mass. There are much bigger issues in this country. I can understand how that officer was trying to protect himself. The professor should have complained to his neighbors they were the ones that called police in the first place. It seems that when ever someone of another race gets accused of something the first thing they say is that you are only accusing me because I'm not like you. Well all I have to say to that is grow up people you are no longer in the 3rd grade. I personally feel that the charges should have never been dropped.

    July 23, 2009 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  5. ejones

    Obama acts stupid every day...

    July 23, 2009 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  6. Kevin

    Obama had no business commenting on the case. The police report is pretty clear the guy was antagonistic. I wonder if Gates was looking to cause a scene.

    July 23, 2009 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  7. Isabelle

    I am just really embarrassed for the president at this point. To comment on something you know nothing about and make a mistake is one thing. To stand by your mistake and keep digging the hole for yourself is another. Congratulations Mr. President. You've now officially assumed the role of George W. Bush II.

    July 23, 2009 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  8. David

    The President's comment was stupid. The police were called to investigate a possible break in . As is the norm idenification by the prominent well educated professor was resisted and who beside the president thinks a middle aged man cannot commit a break in.

    July 23, 2009 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  9. moe

    this just proves that Obama is two faced. he says he respects that the job of police officers, but says when they do their job right that they are acting stupidly. the procedure for arresting a man in his home where he is set up and has the advantage is the same unless you know there is hostages or armed resistance. The police acted correctly in this manner and i saw nothing where race played a factor except in the rhetoric.

    July 23, 2009 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  10. Mark

    speaking of acting stupidly, how's our new communized health care package coming along?

    July 23, 2009 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  11. D

    My God, you people need to get over it. I can't even read these boards any more. Do you think you are going to change anything by complaining on these message boards??? Republicans, get over it you lost and you know what, you're going to lose again because you have no one to put up against Obama. Maybe they should try coming up with some ideas rather than complaining all the time. 24 hour news is garbage, I am so sick of it. You people need to get a life. Instead of sitting around in your house and complaining why don't you get out and do something about whatever you think is a problem in this country

    July 23, 2009 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  12. Hayden

    How Obama said that someone else was acting stupidly is beyond me. He is just inflaming race relations. Are we going to get the point where no one will be able to be arrested because of accusations of racial profiling?

    July 23, 2009 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  13. George Washington

    I am truly disturbed when our "President" uses words like "Stupid" when referring to law enforcement.

    I am even more disturbed that our "President" used the race card. SHAME ON YOU MR. PRESIDENT

    July 23, 2009 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  14. Craig G.

    The president shouldn't have address this at all. He was not there and has no idea what went on. He is the one acting stupid.

    July 23, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  15. nathan

    I think that Gates and Obama are doing all of us a favor. It is probably difficult for them to realize that no white man would go ballistic on a cop and expect to remain unhospitalized or even alive. Of course Gates got arrested, and it probably had nothing to do with race (except in Gates' mind). The fact that cops treat all of us poorly is lost on minorities, for good reason since they generally get treated worse, so in the long run this will probably be good for everyone. Gates is lucky he lives in Cambridge and that the cop was well trained and among the best or he would be dead for sure.

    July 23, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  16. Tbone85

    I agree with Ike. People hate to hear the truth.

    July 23, 2009 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  17. Bifster

    President Obama, admittedly without all the facts, shopuld have kept his opinions to himself. I am sure that as a friend he felt he should stand by his friend but as President, maybe, just maybe he should have waited until all the facts are in. Unless of course a University President is above having a chip on his shoulder when questioned by a White Cop.

    July 23, 2009 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  18. Lauren

    He should have declined comment. He did not have the facts. But he instead went into a speech about racial profiling.

    July 23, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  19. not blinded

    Obama continues to insert foot deeper into mouth. It is too bad that the police officer had to be subjected to the abuse that Gates was heaping on him. Gates wanted this to be about race, so he incited the arrest. He is totally at fault. Obama proved his own stupidity and racism by not getting the facts.

    July 23, 2009 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  20. Elie H

    Honestly since when was it lawful to arrest someone for disorderly conduct in their own home?? I know cops have a tough job but come on pepole!

    July 23, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  21. John

    He was arrested outside his home while exhibiting threats and unruly conduct toward a police officer. An officer who only did his job. An officer with black friends who stand behind him. There were many witnesses of all colors who are standing behind the officer's account. The fact that our leaders would rather drive more stakes between us, than display an attitude of healing and togetherness is absolutely "STUPID". This says a lot about Obama and Gates, and it is quite disheartening to all who strive to end racism in this nation. It is quite clear that arrogance knows no color.

    July 23, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  22. Nicole

    What is the controversy? Are cops so above reproach that the President of the United States can't call them out and say they have acted stupidly when they have acted stupidly? I know that is exactly what I thought when I heard about this whole mess. I'm glad he's standing by the comment because he should.

    July 23, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  23. Jan Illinois

    He said that he did not know the whole situation, until you do know, it would be best to remain quiet. The police go into situations all the time that don't turn out as they hope they will, who's to say what could have gone wrong if the situation escalates. He spoke to soon, on what he THOUGHT he knew.

    July 23, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  24. Karol

    Bottom line is that the professor should never have been arrested. The PD needs a little 'community policing' training. The officer was reactive.

    July 23, 2009 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  25. Bob of Lompoc

    "Two black men forcing in a door at such and such address".

    President Obama is correct. The stupid Cambridge Police Department would NEVER, regardless of the nature of the citizen complaint, have arrested an unarmed, cane using, sober, middle to older aged white person, in his own home. NEVER !

    Racism in the heart of Liberalville. Not surprising at all. Professor Gates would likely have been shot dead had this happened in more "right wing" police environments. Racism is still all around us folks. Don't you forget it.

    July 23, 2009 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
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