He stopped short of a public apology. But the president telephoned both Gates and the white officer who had arrested him, hoping to end the rancorous back-and-forth over what had transpired and what Obama had said about it. Trying to lighten the situation, he said he had invited the Harvard professor and police St. James Crowley for "a beer here in the White House."
"This has been ratcheting up, and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up," Obama said of the racial controversy. "I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. Crowley specifically. And I could've calibrated those words differently."
The president did not back down from his contention that police had overreacted by arresting Gates for disorderly conduct after coming to his home to investigate a possible break-in. He added, though, that he thought Gates, too, had overreacted to the police who questioned him. The charge has been dropped.
Obama stirred up a hornet's nest when he said at a prime-time news conference this week that the officer, who is white, had "acted stupidly" by arresting Gates, a friend of the president's. Looking back, Obama said he didn't regret stepping into the controversy and hoped the matter would end up being a "teachable moment" for the nation.
"The fact that this has garnered so much attention, I think, is testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in America," Obama said.
Obama wryly took note of the distraction from his legislative efforts.
"I don't know if you've noticed, but nobody's been paying much attention to health care," the president said.
Obama, who has come under intense criticism from police organizations, said he had called Crowley to clear the air, and said the conversation confirmed his belief that the sergeant is an "outstanding police officer and a good man."
Friday, July 24, 2009
Obama calls cop who arrested Gates
Today President Obama said he chose unfortunate words when saying that police "acted stupidly" in arresting HarvardProfessor Gates at his own home.