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. Sam

    what is the possibility that a black police officer would arrest a white American in his own home, after being shown photo id (with the home's address), responding to a break-in into the home?

    the same way that in NYC only black undercover cops keeps getting shot by their white counterparts. is this because the black plainclothes are congentially better at discerning cops from perps?

    Until police departments around the world flush out all the rogue officers among them, and discontinue the enabling environment, entire departments will continue to suffer for the malicious acts of few.

    July 23, 2009 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  2. shi

    I see that the race factor is involved here but not just based on the Cop's actions.

    Why did the prof. have to be so jumpy about showing his ID. Why go on an offensive to say "You want to see my ID or not answer my question because I'm black". Aren't we becoming overly sensitive.

    Why not just show the ID to satisfy the cop about being the owner. then ask his side of the questions. I mean even when drivers are stopped for traffic violation you wouldn't start asking why (if according to you , you did nothing wrong) but first give him the ID and papers. right?

    July 23, 2009 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  3. Didi

    At first I thought this sitituation was much ado about nothing until I saw the interview with Professor Gates, then I realized the policeman involved is no doubt young and inexperienced. The professor is not only a little man, he's on a cane for goodness sake. I don't know if race was involved, but no one expects to be arrested after you show proof of residency.

    July 23, 2009 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  4. PS

    Posted this before because I believe it to be true:

    Obama played the race card in NC. And he supports his friend Gates playing it MA.

    Gates also tried to out class the police, C'Mon!!!! He followed them outside and called them racist - all the while they are answering a call to protect his property!!! Gates is the RACIST and Obama seems to be as well. This isn't an angry post. This is an observation. I think that Obama is bad news for all of us.

    I hope that police everywhere INCLUDING OBAMA'S OWN DETAIL organize a strike against both of these dishonest men.

    July 23, 2009 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  5. jane

    I think we need to hear the full story, that is, the police officers' side. These are the people we look to for protection, the people who put their lives on the line for us, 24 hours a day, with far too little compensation for their service. To demoralize them in this way on national news without reporting all the facts is a disgrace. I voted for Obama, would have been terribly demoralized myself had he not won the election, but I take offense at the remarks he has made. Meanwhile, the professor who was arrested appears to be enjoying himself to no end. At least, make sure the whole story is reported

    July 23, 2009 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  6. Kel

    Got it Prez. Next time don't investigate a reported crime, just eat another twinkie.

    July 23, 2009 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  7. Obama blew it

    I am white and have had Black police officers point a gun at me in my home, I didn't go screaming to the media

    what a baby, go get your pacifier Mr. Havard

    what a stain on your school

    July 23, 2009 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  8. gina

    President, you should let the Police do the job.
    Big mistake!
    Do you know how many Police cross country that will not like your comment..

    July 23, 2009 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  9. Tom, Cary NC

    Obama didn't read the police report – I did – and he doesn't know Gates – I do, having graduated from Harvard. Gates is an egotistical maniac who just happens to be black, and he has a NASTY personality when dealing with the 'little people'. Did you notice that one of the investigating officers was black? Was he stupid too, Barack? Face it – Gates was rude – really rude – to a cop who was trying to do this job. The charges should not have been dropped.

    July 23, 2009 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  10. Kimberly

    he's right they did

    July 23, 2009 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  11. Nate P, MN

    Of course Obama would say that, he's black. I voted for him, but give me a break. Police received a call of someone trying to force open a door and they responded. Gates had to play the race card.

    July 23, 2009 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  12. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Gates admitted, live, in Times square he 'got right in the face of the officer' he said "the officer was being quiet' he ADMITTED he had insulted the officer!"
    He seems very prone to calling people racists, it actually seems to be how he makes his living.
    White, black, or grey he is NOT a gentleman.
    He WAS interefering with the police.
    When they get a call like that, even after he shows shows his ID, they have resolve why he was breaking in!?
    It would NOT be impossible their was a restraining order, who knows?
    They HAD to look for possible victims.

    July 23, 2009 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  13. JR

    Not only he acted stupidly, but he also acted abusively, arrogantly, and barbarically. I would not be surprised if learning that he is connected to the right wing group. They don't have any respect to people that are different from them.
    Being a police officer doesn't give you the right to arrest people wherever and whenever you want to. Otherwise, we aren't different from Iran, Chine, Iraq, and others. Everyone should be secure inside his home. That constitutional right shouldn't be violated, even by a police officer.
    Any American president, except Bush 43 maybe, would be even angrier than president Obama was.
    I also believe, the so-called disorderly conduct as a motive to arrest people should be reviewed and closely controlled.

    July 23, 2009 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  14. Yahbut

    President Obama would be wise to keep his mouth shut about this incident. He wasn't there any more than I was so he doesn't know everything that went on.

    July 23, 2009 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
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