July 23rd, 2009
02:06 PM ET
9 years ago

White House says Obama does not regret Gates comments

Gates was arrested last week at his home in Massachusetts on a charge of disorderly conduct.

Gates was arrested last week at his home in Massachusetts on a charge of disorderly conduct.

(CNN) - White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that President Obama does not regret saying Cambridge, Massachusetts police "acted stupidly" in arresting Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Watch: Obama weighs in on Gates arrest

Asked aboard Air Force One whether the president regrets the choice of words, Gibbs told reporters that Obama, who made the remarks at Wednesday night's White House press conference, "was not calling the [arresting] officer stupid. The situation got out of hand."

Related: GOP questions Obama's police criticism

Related: NRCC takes on Obama's cop comment

Gates was arrested last Thursday at his Cambridge home for disorderly conduct - what the arresting officer described as "loud and tumultuous behavior in a public space." The charge was dropped Tuesday on the recommendation of police, and the city of Cambridge issued a statement calling the incident "regrettable and unfortunate."

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. Shasta

    "Gibbs told reporters that Obama, who made the remarks at Wednesday night's White House press conference, "was not calling the [arresting] officer stupid. The situation got out of hand.""

    This is what Obama said:

    "No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home;"

    How is that not calling the officer stupid? Am I missing something? Obama, I voted for you, and you have had my support, but please stop acting like a blithering idiot.

    July 23, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  2. buzbeech

    Wait! Whats this! A black policeman in the picture? So it really wasn't a racial incident. Just a case of mistaken identity. Once again Colored Network News (CNN) gets it wrong. Hey how about a story about What its like to be White In America? You might be surprised at the response you get. CNN sucks!

    July 23, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. Nick 27, So Cal

    I would be so mad if the police arrested me in my own home. Im glad the cops came to make sure if everything was ok, but once I prove I live there and that it was a misunderstanding I would expect them to leave not arrest me for being pissed off! People want to criticize the President for his clothes and now for saying that the poice "acted stupidly"!! Focus people!!!

    July 23, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  4. Joe

    Why should he the cops did "act stupidly" I am sure the republicans will try to start something with this one. Republicans remind me of a desperate person who will try anything and everything for someones attention or love.

    July 23, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  5. Phil

    Obama should feel regret for the comment. The police had every right to do what they did. They received a report of someone breaking into a house. They go there and ask for ID and the man pitches one. What were they supposed to do, just walk away? The guy was being uncooperative and was treated as anyone else would have been. If the cops come to my house and ask for ID because they received a report of a break-in I will gladly comply. I would be glad they were doing their job. This guy is just a typical cry racisim type of person. Obama needs to think before he comments on things like this because he is unnecessarily stirring the pot. I'm sure Rev. Wright would be proud.

    July 23, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  6. mia

    I can't believe the negative comment Mr. Obama made against the Cambridge Police. He acknowledges that he didn't know much about the facts of the case so why wouldn't he just deny a comment. Mr. Gates cleary did not abide by what the police officer asked him to do by showing an ID. Then he became beligerent and loud causing a scene. That is why he got arrested. Not because he was black. If it was anyone else, white, asian, etc. this case would not have been dropped. I am disappointed with District Attorney Gerry Leone's office that they would dismiss the charges. African Americans keep speaking about how they can't escape racism but thats the first card they play when they break the law. They use that instead of owning up to their mistakes. I

    July 23, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  7. Wrong!

    My white brother was arrested incorrectly when he called the police because somebody was vandalizing his car. I do not believe for a second this was about racism. Professor Gates, in his anger jumped to racism. Professor Gates, has thrown needless fuel on the bigotry fire. I am as liberal as they come, by the way.

    July 23, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  8. California Gold

    I'm a white female and if I were arrested under the same circumstances you bet I'd be loud and exhibiting tumultuous behavior as well. It was stupid of the police to arrest the man after he provided satisfactory proof that it was indeed his personal residence. And yes, bias probably was a factor. As a teen I was stopped and detained by the LAPD on occasion and I knew it was probably because I was young and at a party or in a car that was pulled over or out at night.

    July 23, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  9. dee

    it's one thing to say someone is stupid. its another thing to say someone acted stupidly. again, the officer is not stupid, but did act stupidly in arresting a resident after proving to be in their house. what part of that does the GOP or press media not understand

    July 23, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  10. S&P

    I'm afraid this happens everyday. Some meat-head cop shows up and escalates a situation to a level where someone is either arrested or taser'd or both. Simply leaving this man's house would have ended the situation and not provoked further race tensions and distrust of the police.

    Good work officers.

    July 23, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  11. Gracie, MD


    President Obama does NOT need to explain or justify his comment regarding Mr. Gates. Millions of Americans UNDERSTOOD his comments.

    Republicans will once again WHINE and CRY THE BLUES about a cop being called "STUPID" based on his judgement. Well, welcome to the REAL WORLD.

    July 23, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  12. Mike

    What is funny about the Republican response, if an agent for the gov't came onto the property to arrest any gun-weilding conservative without just cause, they would have shot first and asked questions later and felt they had a constitutional right to do so.

    This situation is the kind of "big-government" thing Republicans oppose.

    July 23, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  13. Shirley In California Now On The Fence Re Obama

    I have been on the fence for Obama since his SC appointment but I must say, I FULLY SUPPORT HIS COMMENT! Who else in America has a such a big podium and can actually shed some light on what has been happening in America for far too long. Yes, this was a bold statement and it just might cause him some white votes but it needed to be said. Whether you like it or not there IS racism in America and those of you who are so quick to call Obama a racist need to look in the mirror first. Those of us who have experienced it first hand don't need to "play the race card" we leave that up to those or you who are so ignorant you can't control yourselves.

    This statement by Obama and the fact he is willing to back it up makes me again proud of him and I no longer am on the fence. Should "you people" and you know who you are chose to vote him out - so be it. Attention has been given to this awful attack on black males and I for one support my president and I am glad he did not back down.

    July 23, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  14. Michael Clarke

    Sadly this police officer from a small town has been ridiculed publicly by
    the President of The United States ,whom I voted for.
    This too is a Character assassination by our (Bi-Racial) President .
    Shame on President Obama. You have ruined this officer's life by keeping
    Mr.Gates your friend, first in your mind and not the fact that this cop was
    never tried in a court of law ,Calling him stupid or the arrest stupid is
    indeed premature and hurtful.
    Our President needs to learn that he is really the President for all
    people and not just a community organizer in Chicago in his sensibility.
    Time will tell if he finds the decorum needed to continue in his elected
    role as our leader.

    July 23, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  15. Neil

    If the reporting is accurate, then the policeman did act in a "stupid" manner and good for Obama to speak straightly. I am so tired of PC behavior.

    July 23, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. Gates is an embicile

    as an Obama fan, I think this professor is a cry baby

    July 23, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  17. rose

    Obama did not know all the facts, was not present to properly respond to the incident so perhaps he should have kept his opinions to himself, especially since he is the president of the United States. By making such a biased statement, he is fueling the flames and prolonging this incident in our headlines. Also, by calling the police action stupid, he is, in effect, calling all the brave men and women who put their life on the line everyday to protect us stupid. Way to go Mr President.

    July 23, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  18. Shawn - GA

    We have no idea how the guy acted, he may have been yelling and screaming and throwing a fit. Hence the arrest for distrubing the peace.

    For the President of the United States to make such a comment shows a real lack of respect and that he is right race is a factor in this country. He is a racist, just like the church he sat in for over 20 years.

    July 23, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  19. Sherrie Eugene, Oregon

    Thank You President Obama for continuing to stand up for what is right for ALL people who are being criminally wronged with a system who has been allowing our officers to use their "personal" attitudes in unjustifiable ways that have simply been fueling the barriers of injustice in this country!

    Bravo President Obama for giving our good police officers room to do right for the people, by the people THIS TIME! MUCH needed and LONG overdue!

    July 23, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  20. John

    My only question is (purely Devil's advocate), would the charges have been dropped if this were Bill Gates instead of Henry Louis Gates? Disorderly conduct is disorderly conduct. There have been many instances where an individual has not done anything wrong but has been detained because of their perceived aggretion towards police. The police may have truly been looking out for their own safety and when Mr. Gates got upset in the heated moment, felt threatened by him.

    Obviously, the professor is not or has not been a threat towards the police but to say this only happened because he is black is absurd.

    July 23, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  21. jeanne

    look at the picture on CNN, looks like a black officer at the scene in front of the professor, whats his take?????and secondly, look at the professor, He's the only one screaming......i was always taught when and if you are in trouble (arrested) repect the officer and keep your mouth shut.. and if theres an injustice it will come out later...tired of black people screaming racism, move on....theres a black man in the white house for gods sake, how racists are we to vote him in....although, thought i'd never say it, but mccain looks pretty good today.....POTOS should not have said what he did or gotten involved...he has made racism worse today than yesterday by his words.....The cop was doing his job.....balcks and whites should have more respect for the cops... and this would not have happened..

    July 23, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  22. DRS

    Why is the President of the United States commenting on any private issue. He didn't comment about the ghuy down the street being arrested. This is not something I think the President or any elected official should be commenting on, even if he is a friend.

    July 23, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  23. KJL

    Both the officer and the professor saw the same situation differently. Nobody knows what really happened, including them. I think they should be grateful that some crazy citizen didn't shoot the "burglar" and drop the matter.

    July 23, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  24. Ola Michael

    I am pleased that Pres. Obama acted the question sincerely. America has imbedded racial challenges. The only way to deal with this is to acknowledge these racial issues exist. This must occur before any attempts are made to improve the problems. Great strides have been made but there is room for greater improvement.
    I applaud him for not skirting the issue but being honest. Kudos! Now let's get on with other things. The GOP will continue to make an issue of this.

    July 23, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  25. Simon/Orlando

    Not knowing the details, he should have stayed out of it. This was not a black man being stopped for no reason by the police. The call came from a concerned neighbor who saw two people breaking into a house. It's unfortunate the president made it into a racial profiling incident.

    July 23, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
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