UPDATE EXTRA: Obama: No apology for ‘stupid’ remark, but maybe a beer
This moronic president doesn’t know when to quit!
Washington – US President Barack Obama Friday moved to quell a racial firestorm over his remarks about the arrest of a black Harvard professor, saying he had called the white police officer in question to discuss the issue. Stepping into the press room at the White House, Obama surprised reporters with his appearance, then defended his right as president to have commented on such a local matter.
But while he conceded he “could have calibrated” his incendiary words from Wednesday night “differently,” he did not offer an outright apology.
“I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think, I unfortunately, I think, gave an impression I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and (the officer) specifically.”
“I could have calibrated those words differently,” Obama said he told Sergeant James Crowley, the arresting officer, in a conversation earlier Friday.
On Wednesday night, Obama jumped into the brewing fray over the arrest, saying Cambridge police had “acted stupidly” in arresting Professor Henry Gates, a leading authority on African American history who is a good friend of the country’s first black president.
Obama said at the time that the arrest showed that “race remains a factor in this society” and “still haunts us.”
Obama’s remarks Friday followed shortly after a phalanx of Massachusetts police unions had demanded an apology from Obama.
Crowley is responsible for training other officers in Cambridge, Massachusetts how to avoid racial profiling, and Obama noted that the officer had “a fine track record on racial sensitivity.”
At the end of his conversation with the officer, there was discussion about the threesome – Obama, Crowley and Gates – “having a beer here in the White House,” Obama said.
“We may put that together,” Obama said. “We don’t know if that’s scheduled yet.”
Obama conceded that he helped to ratchet up nationwide furore with his remarks, but insisted that in his role as president, he had a duty to weigh in.
“Race is still a troubling aspect of this society, whether I were black or white,” Obama said. “Interactions between police officers and the African-American community can sometimes be fraught with misunderstanding.”
After talking to Crowley, he said he concluded that “two good people” had gotten involved in an incident that didn’t turn out the way either of them wanted it to.
“I continue to believe … that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station. I also continue to believe … that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well.”
In the arrest, police were responding to a call from a neighbour who reported that a black man was trying to break into Gates’ Cambridge home. In fact, it was Gates himself, arriving home late at night from China, where he had been filming a public television documentary.
His front door was stuck shut, and Gates enlisted help from his taxi driver to assist in prying it open. When police arrived, they demanded that Gates identify himself and an altercation ensued.
Crowley arrested Gates for disorderly conduct and took him to the police station to book him. The charges were later dropped amidst the outcry over the arrest of such a prestigious black university professor.