July 22nd, 2009
09:30 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama: Police 'acted stupidly' in arresting Harvard scholar

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, "acted stupidly" by arresting Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates after they were called to his home on a report of a burglary last week, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.

Disorderly conduct charges against Gates - one of the most prominent African-American academics - were dropped Tuesday after the incident drew national attention, with all involved calling it a "regrettable and unfortunate" incident. Asked about the matter in a White House news conference Wednesday, Obama said it shows "how race remains a factor in this society.

"That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made," said Obama, the first African-American U.S. president. "I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made. And yet, the fact of the matter is that, you know, this still haunts us."

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (115 Responses)
  1. dun

    I find it interesting how the Messiah, can get invovled in everyday matters,with his comments.
    If the boots had been on the other feet, , nothing would have been entertained
    America, you voted him in, now suffer the consequenes.

    How great it is to live in a country, free,and not have to be dictated to by such a n illustrious leader!!!!!!!!!!

    July 22, 2009 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  2. His own house

    He was acting real "uppity" an old Harvard college professor, walking with a cane in front of his own house. How dare he?

    July 22, 2009 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  3. George B.

    I'm a big fan of President Obama and I salute all those folks who participated in the civil rights movement over the past many decades, and we still have much progress to make. Having "said that", based on accounts I've read of this incident there is plenty of blame to go around. Professor Gates behaved in a very confrontational manner and used poor judgment. If he had presented his identification when requested, the incident likely would have been diffused and he then could have filed a formal complaint, having taken the high road rather than disobeying a request from a law enforcement official.

    July 22, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  4. The power be with you

    I wish, President Obama had said "inappropriately" instead of "stupidly."

    July 22, 2009 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  5. vyker

    Sorry...but one of the arresting officer's was black.

    Also the professor could have helped difuse the situation a bit, but instead was combative.

    Needless to say I can see were Al SHarpton, Jesse Jackson, and the rest are going to be showing up.

    Aren't there more severe topics to be on top of, and the president should focus on?

    July 22, 2009 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  6. Mariann Pepitone

    I disagree with Obama. The ;professo was very rude and brought up racial to the police. The police was right in arresting him and he should have went to jail for a few days. For a highly educated man he acted stupid. And the professor's attorney is in the same category as the professor. If I was the Sheriff I would pursue the case further. And if I was the judge I would give him 30 days.

    July 22, 2009 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  7. Bonnie

    President Obama is being very nice, I on the other hand, don't have to be, it is what it is, racism, alive and well and flourishing boldly and blantantly since his election. I have read and heard so many racist comments, and then an apology after the fact. Why apologize when you only said what you have always thought., not to mention you do not mean the apology anyway. African-Americans are making some caucasions lives a living hell, not intentionally, not by anything that was said or done, but just because they choose to live with hatred in their hearts, minds, and lives. Until some of you come to terms with the FACT that African-Americans are not second class citizens, will not tolerate being treated as such, accept the FACT that there is an African-American President of the United States, you will continue to live a miserable, hate-filled existence, that is your choice, and I for one feel sorry for you.

    July 22, 2009 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  8. gl, Pittsburgh

    This happen last year to a black Co-worker that live in Pittsburgh and he sue the Braddocks Police for arrest him in his onw house. Someone report a black man is trying to break in a house. When the cops arrived at his house, they told him there was a report of someone trying to break in this house and he told the cops not here becasue this is my house. The cops did not believe him and made him show his ID and they still arrested just as this black man have been arrest. He just got paid big time this year from his law suit. Yes, Black men still get profiled. It may not happen as much as it use to, but it still happens.

    July 22, 2009 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  9. normajean

    If you weren't there then the only thing you can add is an opinion.

    July 22, 2009 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  10. VC, MD

    I think it's Obama who is being stupid here. He says that he does not have the facts and still goes on to comment that Cambridge police acted stupidly. He also does not understand why 10% of population (minorities) are suspected for 30% crimes when they commit only about 40% of the crimes. He also thinks that Dr. Gates was arrested for getting into his home though there is no such law? I think he was busy writing articles at Harvard instead of learning law.

    July 22, 2009 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  11. No Hillary = No Obama

    Ok, now let's put the shoe on the other foot. Someone took a civic responsibility and called police because they thought there was a break-in. I wish I had neighbors like this, but I don't – I live in Oakland where there is so much black on black killing people just look the other way and keep their mouths shut.
    It was a reasonable mistake and Gates should have been thanking the officers instead of getting huffy and puffy and crying racism. Had he just cooperated it would have been the end of the story. It wasn't the police that acted stupidly, it was the "scholar" -where is the common sense?

    July 22, 2009 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  12. Cheri

    Why was this question even asked during a press conference about health care?

    July 22, 2009 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  13. Mariann Pepitone

    The professor deserves to have his home broken into and then he would be glad to call the police. The ;police was only trying to find out about a home invastion and the professor got out of hand. If he thinks he's God's gift he better think again. There are two sides to this ;professor and it all came out. He acted like the southsider's in Chicago instead of an educated man.

    July 22, 2009 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  14. William

    From the earliest reports it was clear that the officer either knowingly or unknowingly viewed the fact that the 58 year old Gates was Black was significant in his treatment–or as is more likely Gates did not show enough respect for the macho infused officer. In either case Gates has been more than vindicated and fortunately the officer's possibility of promotion and an upward career has ended. So there is some justice.

    July 22, 2009 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  15. Jason

    Well....you Barack Obama act stupid all the time. So whats the difference? I will be so glad when your time is up in office because you are ruining this great country. You are SORRY!!!!!!!!!

    July 22, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  16. Jerry Indiana

    Oh no let not our President a black man say we are still races. In fact it has been this man and all of his company that has gone out looking for cases of race to make all right.

    July 22, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  17. seabee

    Obama is right yet again........racism is alive and well.....Thank God there are not enough voters yet that believe that he was not born in the US. If so, we would not be talking about a black president in the White House, but we would all live under Hitler's house. God Bless U Obama!!!

    July 22, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  18. veronica

    Anything to get another 15 minutes huh Barack.

    July 22, 2009 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  19. valwayne

    Prof Gates by his own admission was locked out of his house and had to work to get in that made it look like he was breaking into it. The police doing their job, responded to a report of a possible break in to insure that the neighborhood was safe, the house was safe, and Prof Gates was safe. For their efforts Mr. Gates throws a tizzy and plays the race card? He should have gratefully showed them his ID, answered their questions and thanked them. What if a criminal had broken in and had him tied up in a bedroom getting ready to slit his throat. Would he really want the police to just walk away when the man at the door wouldn't cooperate or identify himself? The only think worse than his childish and stupid behavior his Obama blaming the police for doing their job and keeping him safe. And this is the man we count on to keep the country safe?

    July 22, 2009 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  20. Fischen

    Shame on President Obama for assuming that this has anything to do with race EXCEPT for the fact that Professor Gates shouted out that he was black and the officer present was white. Shame on President Obama for believing that only black people get arrested for Disorderly Conduct. President Obama acted stupidly in defending a friend of his, who happened to black, who happened to be acting disorderly, and got himself arrested.

    July 22, 2009 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  21. Johnny DC


    This President is simply preaching to his roots when he acknowledges the wolf cries of this clearly oversensitive professor.

    The police responded to a call from an alarmed neighbor who saw two men (color has nothing to do with it) forcing themselves through a broken door. Upon arriving, the officer was immediately attacked as a racist and was denied the requests he was making for identification of the two potential robbers.

    Where are the facts? You won't see Obama talk about the facts here. You never see him use the real facts.

    This story is OUTRAGEOUS. This story is a prime example why there is racial inequality in America. In a battle between a black criminal and a white man doing his job perfectly, the black criminal will ALWAYS win. Common sense only prevails when everyone involved is white, apparently.

    July 22, 2009 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  22. Wanderer

    By reading news, it is hard for me to visualize the accuracy of what was actually happening. Based on what I have read, I have a feeling that officer, Sgt. James Crowley had probably been accused of being racist and professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was a little too sensitive when Crowley told Gates that he was investigating a possible break-in. I agreed with president Obama that Crowley might have acted stupidly by arresting Gates, probably because Crowley was also little too sensitive when Gates told Crowley "Why, because I'm a black man in America”. One might have thought he was discriminated, and the other one might have thought he was accused of being racist. This aggravated the sensitivity of the issue. If Crowley told Gates in a different way without the words ‘break-in’, I think the situation would have happened differently. I wish all people could realize that their skin colors are different just because of the different number of Melanocytes under their skin, but the cells are made from the same electrons and protons that are the fundamental elements that make up everything on Earth including human body, brain, skin, … myriad of myriad of things.

    July 22, 2009 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  23. paul

    Why is it that on MOST cases, Pres Obama says that he will withhold comment until he knows all the facts? With the Gates case, with admitting he had very little information on the facts, basically called the white arresting officer a racist for arresting Mr Gates. Now, I will withhold judgement but seeing that there was a black officer there on the scene when Mr Gates was arrested, why not ask him what happened. I find it reprehensible that the president of the US would make comment that is soooo inflammatory with only hearing ONE side of the situation! Why not give the officer a call and ask his side and then pass judgement.

    A dangerous moment in my eyes happened tonight.

    July 22, 2009 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  24. I Am The Great And Powerful Rush Of Oz

    Here come the victims of ODS (Obama Derangement Syndrome), in three . . . two . . . one . . .

    July 22, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  25. eolufemi

    Thank you Mr. President for being honest. Whether it was racist or not, being rude to a police officer is not a crime, and the officer abused his authority by arresting Dr. Gates on bogus charges, even the prosecutor realized were silly.

    July 22, 2009 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
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