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. Jerry

    News flash – while stating he "wasn't there", and he is "biased", our President states an opinion about an issue where a good citizen called in an apparent break in, and the rest, right up to the arrest, is "he said, he said."

    Wow, calling out the Cambridge police department for something he doesn't have all the facts about.

    Hmmmmmmm. Rush to judgment, just like the stimulus and the health care reform bill.

    Let's do it fast – before anyone can really scrutinize whether what we're doing is right!!!

    July 22, 2009 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  2. libby

    The cop did act stupid. He should have looked at the ID and apologized for the inconvenience. Why should he ask Gates to come outside. Also, why should we always believe the cops? A lot of them lie to make the report look good. I trust Mr. Gates comments as much as I trust the cops. Why should we not believe Mr. Gates. That's the way it is most of the time. The Black man's comments are always doubted.

    July 22, 2009 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  3. JDB

    Without having some knowledge of the natural temperment of the cop and the professor, it's really hard to judge this situation. The facts still aren't clear.

    I do believe that a white man wouldn't have been treated in the same manner. There's still racial profiling, it's not opinion, it's fact.

    July 22, 2009 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  4. Nohea

    I am appalled that the president would accuse an officer who was doing his job of acting stupidly. Had Gates followed the officer's request to provide identification instead of jumping to conclusion that he was being profiled, this would not have been an issue. I am a minority but I do not walk around with a chip on my shoulder, unlike Gates. Shame on Obama and Gates for using the race card! It's so old, even I'm sick and ashamed of it.

    July 22, 2009 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  5. George Washington

    wow, should we blame the previous administration?

    July 22, 2009 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  6. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Obama as usual is clueless in this case. A witness has stated that Gates WAS shouting and being abusive outside his home. The cop was perfectly correct in arresting him. Looks like the blacks have rallied around the race card with the black mayor, governor and president all making this about race when it isn't. Omama's lowest point since his 'typical white person' comment about his grandmother.

    July 22, 2009 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  7. BJC

    It's nice of you to throw the Police under the bus not knowing any facts. Seems that's the only thing you're really good at.

    July 22, 2009 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  8. Stephen in Denver

    Old minds have old ways. The sands of change are upon the world. This change is going to require self review and honesty. The way one grew up is no longer an excuse.
    We as a species can no longer judge someone by the color of their skin, their height, weight, sex, country of origin or religous beliefs. Let's remember the rest of MLK's words, "but by the content of their being."

    Mankind has sought peace almost from day one. Yet conflict has rode on it's coat tails.

    July 22, 2009 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  9. J.C.

    Fortunately, one policeman at the scene is also black. Let's move on to more important things such as affordable health care for all.

    July 22, 2009 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  10. Robert

    I think this sets a bad precedent for Obama. It is a bit beneath a sitting U.S. President to involve himself in such trivialties and daily affairs of law enforcement. In addition, a President should not publicly denounce his own law enforcement apparatus.. doing so shows he may not be in full command of the office of President. Obama should focus on the economy and leave such judgments to the courts, since that is what they are there for after all.

    July 22, 2009 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  11. Sally

    Of course, Obama is going to see this incident from the professor's point of view...he admitted he was a friend of the professor...however, I wish Obama wouldn't have called the officer's arrest "stupid" even though it was stupid and idiotic...the police officer got angry and threw his power around with this arrest. Just how much he was provoked is questionable. At the very least, the officer should have had the good sense to back off when it was established that Gates was in his own home. All the bigots in the United States are going to jump on this and scream racism on the part of the president. We have heard several renditions of the incident and we will never know what exactly transpired as each person involved sees it in his own way, from his own biases. That there is racial profiling and police harassment is a fact...now, whether it took place in this instance is up for question.

    July 22, 2009 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  12. Not Surprised - Texas

    The time will come for racist's to pay for their actions ... Race is no longer a factor in the US is a bunch of crap

    July 22, 2009 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  13. chip

    Do we get to hear the police's side of the story?

    July 22, 2009 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    This is annoying. I've read the news reports and someone thought this house was being robbed and called the cops. When the police arrived the owner immediatly pulls the race card, (when they are there in fact to protect his home) and instead of showing his id he begins to state over and over to the officers – let me see your badge, what's your name (this is a Harvard professor – instigating a situation?) Then on top of all of this being blown out of porportion (by the officers and the homeowner – both could have handled this situation better) the president jumps in and states. "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." – Is he an idiot, what haunts him? He is continuing to keep the race divided by making these types of statements. Shame on you President Obama – we voted for you because we felt that you truely would make a difference instead time is showing that you it seems is part of the problem.

    July 22, 2009 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  15. Mike

    The action of the cop was abusive regardless of whether the home owner was white or black, a published Harvard professor or a laborer. You shouldn't be commanded out of your house without a warrent and then arrested for hurting the ego of a cop. The cop should be fired for abusing the power that the community entrusted him with.

    July 22, 2009 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  16. Desmond

    Though he was calling a spade a spade, probably not the most presidential word to use and one that he will often be reminded of by pathetic people who are permanently just waiting to pounce on anything to derail him.

    July 22, 2009 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  17. Wrong!

    Perhaps the police did act stupidly, but it certainly sounds like Professor Gates did, too. My white brother was incorrectly arrested when he called the cops because somebody was vandalizing his car. STOP MAKING EVERYTHING ABOUT RACE!!! PROFESSOR GATES MADE IT ABOUT RACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 22, 2009 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  18. John Galt

    I am shocked and outraged at our President's recent comments about the arrest of Mr. Gates by the Cambridge Police Dept and Ofc. Crowley. This issue has absolutely nothing to do about race and everything to do about the law and respecting authority. Mr. Gates was not arrested because he was black. He was arrested for being abusive and for not obeying a LAWFUL request by a police officer who had a LEGITIMATE cause for being at his residence. For our President to support a friend who was 100% in the wrong and accuse the department of acting "stupidly" is so irresponsible. SHAME ON YOU MR. PRESIDENT!

    July 22, 2009 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  19. Mary

    Obama admitted he did not know the facts in the case but called the police "stupid" anyway. The police were doing their job and the professor was loud and obnoxious. It just another rant by a black man against a white man doing his job.

    July 22, 2009 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  20. Wow Obama, you are reaching on this one

    This professor was out of line

    the police did not do anything that would not happen to ANY ethnicity ANY where in ANY town around the U.S.

    He is looking for publicity and thinks scoring points on the police is the way to do it

    shame on you Obama for giving this baloney any credence

    this professor is a BIG BABY and if I were Havard I would take note of the kind of publicity stunt he is pulling

    July 22, 2009 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  21. Dan

    That figures, what else was he going to say?

    July 22, 2009 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  22. cord Udall

    how does he know if the police acted stupidly? he wasn't there, and doesn't know what happened. he only knows what you and i know. so, if we're going to give credence to what obama has to say about this, then my opinion has just as much weight. and i say the police acted appropriately . . .

    July 22, 2009 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  23. randy

    well it is message to all police officers with racial bias

    July 22, 2009 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  24. Ernie in LA

    Let me assure you that the black man has contributed largely to their own reputation. I can just watch the local news in my town and tell you which people cause all the problems. The cops have seen it over and over and they know who causes the problems. This professor was so ready to jump on the racial wagon.This guy did something that he is not admitting for the cops to take such action.

    July 22, 2009 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
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