July 23rd, 2009
05:35 PM ET
13 years ago

First on the CNN Ticker: GOP questions Obama's police criticism

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/23/art.obama07235.gi.jpg caption="The NRSC will place a national Web ad Thursday questioning President Obama's criticism of Massachusetts police department."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senate Republicans will place a national Web ad Thursday calling into question President Obama's decision to criticize a Massachusetts police department for arresting a Harvard professor at his own home.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm for the Senate GOP, is paying for the ad that asks people whether it is appropriate for Obama to say that the Cambridge Police "acted stupidly" for arresting scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Gates was charged with disorderly conduct after reacting angrily when police arrived at his house after receiving a call that a break-in was taking place. On Tuesday, the charges against Gates were dropped. Obama was asked about the incident during Wednesday's nationally televised news conference, and he acknowledged that he may be "a little biased" because of his friendship with Gates.

"But I think it's fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry; No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, No. 3 ... that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately."

The incident, Obama said, shows "how race remains a factor in this society."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that Obama did not regret using those words, but sought to clarify that the president "was not calling the officer stupid."

"The situation got out of hand," Gibbs said.

A Republican official tells CNN that the NRSC is buying a Web ad that will run on the Drudge Report asking people if Obama's remarks were "presidential."

"This isn't taking sides between the police officers and Mr. Gates," NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh told CNN. "It is the issue of whether it is appropriate for the President of United States to be weighing in and taking sides before, by his own admission, all the facts are known."

Walsh, who denied this was a political maneuver, said people who click on the ad will be directed to the NRSC Web site to record their thoughts.

"Unlike the president, we are not taking sides here," Walsh said. "He is the commander- in-chief. Is it appropriate for him to prejudge a legal matter when he doesn't know the facts?"

In addition, the NRSC will issue a news release this afternoon in an attempt to pressure Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, to "speak out" on the matter.

While Walsh said the NRSC is not seeking to politicize the issue, it does ask people to donate to the NRSC. And it is an opportunity for the NRSC to collect email addresses for future political undertakings such as fundraising.

Filed under: NRSC • President Obama
soundoff (310 Responses)
  1. Lisa P

    If President Obama has no business commenting then how much less business does the National Republican Senatorial Committee have to say anything about it?

    And at least Obama knows Gates, which gives him more of a right to an opinion than most of us. Who does the NRSC know? Some C+ Harvard legacy grad who heard of Gates once, or flunked out of his class?

    July 23, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  2. Richard Johnston

    President Obama's reaction to the Cambridge incident may be understandable as a black man, but he said it. he didn't know the whole story and he should have left it at that...especially when speaking as the President.
    As a news reporter covering Hudson County, NJ police in the 1950's and 1960's the atrocities of some policemen against black men and women are well documented. not just in Hudson County but throughout the country. Likely, it still exists among some, hopefully nowhere what it was. Black men know when "the man" stops you you to answer respectfully and keep your hands very visible.
    On the other hand, do ordinary citizens realize the presures police officers are under everywhere. Every time a patrol officer stops a car for a simple traffic violation a crazy could likely open up on him.
    It seems the professor and the president harbor a deep resentment toward policemen, and perhaps rightly so, and they plan to make an issue of it. Surprised at Obama opening up such a divisive subject in the middle of one of the most important issues the country faces. Kind of stupid I think

    July 23, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  3. Orlando Jones

    The GOP needs to get a life line because this action shows they're scrambling like pigs to find dirt. Come on people this is a free country president or not wake up.

    July 23, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  4. Dave

    Ok, you have to remember that a neighbor called this in. The police answered the call and asked for proof and according to the report Dr. Gates pulled the race card right off. So typical.

    July 23, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  5. Jeff J

    The NRSC website does not allow you to share your thoughts at all.
    They want you to sign an ambiguous petition.
    Silly Republicans can not do anything right.

    July 23, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. An Independent

    As a former police officer, I see no good cause to arrest a guy once he has produced ID that he was the homeowner. After that the police officer should have left the scene if he was not welcomed. He should have never used the powers of arrest to take away the freedom of a man for being in his own home and protesting that the police were there. All the officer had to do to avoid this situation was leave. He is not paid to trump up charges on a person in his home. We expect more from trained proefessional public servants. What we got was the abuse of state authority because of a burised ego.

    July 23, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  7. Mayor Robert Wall

    Would'nt it be nice to have a Pres. that can say what he really thinks.
    We did'nt have to worry about the last Pres. because he could'nt

    July 23, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |

    Had Gates been a white man, we would not be having this discussion so lets cut the bull.

    July 23, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  9. Kelly

    The officer behaved stupidly. He really did. Henry Louis Gates Jr. is not a young man, obviously not a threat. A police officer insisted on entering his home for no good reason. Add to that what was obviously racial profiling. Because of my race, I don't have to suffer racial profiling but I say it in my every day interactions with the world. THIS OFFICER BEHAVED BADLY. No one called him stupid, but he behaved as if he was. Who can say if he really is stupid or not. For what it is worth, I think officers who do this should be sent off to serious sensitivity training, weeks and weeks of it. The rest of us in the world would be fired to selectively harrassing a black man, and we should be.

    July 23, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. sick of the nonsense

    For heaven's sake, why can't we please start dealing with important issues?

    I'm so sick of all of this back and forth over nonsense. All the money all these politicians and lobbyists spend could be used to actually fix some of the problems going on.

    I don't know what happened between the Professor and the officer. From what I've read, it sounds like the officer did act stupid. You can bet that any of the people whining about this would be POed if they were arrested in their own home AFTER showing ID.

    I am getting sick of all of it. Because very few of our elected officials give a rats behind about what any ordinary person is going through. All I see happening is people trying to score political points.

    July 23, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  11. Fact

    Ha ha this is a fact !

    July 23, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  12. Sean S

    They did act stupidly. If they would have acted with reason, a police officer could have verified at least his name and address in the database....

    July 23, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  13. Charles Roulette

    It is a sad commentary on our the society when the President of the United States makes derogatory remarks about an incident befores he knows the facts!. If the officer had not I.D the person in the house and something was missing, what would the distinguished professor had said aboout the police force?

    July 23, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  14. Julio

    GOP leaders just don't have nothing better to do.

    Why don't they use this money to repair the harm they have done to their party?

    Wouldn't be better for them to show the public the reasons they don't want the Obama's Health care reform?

    Why don't they work on a better proposal than the democrats?

    This ad will show how much the Republican Leaders are worthless.
    This is why they put Steele there to show the nation that two African American are tearing up each other.

    Shame on them.

    July 23, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  15. Wanda

    My question is this. If it had been a black police officer and a white professor would anyone be having this conversation. I believe what the police officer did was HIS JOB. Maybe Obama should stick to his job and stop trying to take care of another one of his buddys (according to the media he and Gates are good friends). I think this has turned into a racial issue against the police officer. I trust that if a police officer ever sees someone entering my home suspiciously no matter what the skin color, that he or she will not be concerned about dealing with it because someone might scream "racial profiling".

    July 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  16. K M

    Just proves Obama's point that they're not interested in policy, just attacks.

    July 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  17. Don

    The police officer was WRONG Period. No one has brought the so called Neighbor in front of the cameras for them to tell what it was that they thought they saw. The police were very quick to judge this situation, if you know Prof. Gates he is a small old man, walks with a cane and is extreamly intelligent.... for him to get upset there had to be a condensending tone presented by the officer.

    July 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. Don

    Yes race will always remain a factor. No matter what color, national origin, or creed there will always be racism. So now we have a President whom is criticizing a policeman or a group of them in this case. Was the President there NO, was he given all the factors NO, does he know the other side of the story NO so before you spout off at the mouth get all your facts straight. Now my question is, when did a standing President start criticizing a police force in there actions? I guess you could say that perhaps this falls under politics huh? Whatever the case he needs to stay in Washington, get his face and address the real issues with race, health care, housing, government financing, and anything else that pertains to politics and let the states and cities work this out among themselves. Hey I got it, when he leaves the Presidency he can become a policeman and get a real first hand view of racism.

    July 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  19. Dana

    On the Drudge Report, that will be unbiased!

    July 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  20. David

    The baseless police charges were dropped...

    The police themselves called the incident "regrettable and unfortunate", yet these republicans are still up in arms claiming Obama should not have taken sides. Folks, the facts are already out there for everyone to see.

    The RNC should instead consider taking this money for the ad and investing the money in a truckload of tissues...God knows they need them.

    July 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  21. t.r.

    Republican Senators: coming to the defense of helpless, disenfranchised, white police officers everywhere (even in the bluest of blue states, Massachusetts).

    July 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  22. tiff of lithia springs

    Callin' it like he sees it.

    July 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  23. MN thinker

    I know he is just commenting on his "friend" and so his comments are biased. However, I was not there, so I do not know all the facts. If they made a mistake everyone should apologize. If Mr. Gates was out of hand and not cooperating, then he should apologize. Unfortunately, I do not think we will every know. It is just odd to hear the president say such a strong remark if he does not know all the facts.

    July 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  24. Julio

    I meant "anything better to do"

    July 23, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  25. duffey

    Yes race does matter in this country, and President Obama confirmed that by accusing the Cambridge Police of racism (round about) when he is not familar with the facts, as he stated. He is a repesentative of all Americans, and must remember he is no longer in the "hood" and needs to cool it with his comment about "The Man"

    July 23, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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