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Obama backpedals on scholar arrest comment

July 24, 2009 at 5:31 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 24 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Friday clarified his comments on the arrest of a black professor, saying he should have been more careful in choosing his words.

Obama dropped in on the daily press briefing at the White House to modify his comments on the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. at his Cambridge, Mass., home last week. A police sergeant confronted Gates after he had entered his house by forcing the front door open.

Gates is director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

Obama, who said police had acted "stupidly" by arresting and booking Gates, said he talked with the arresting officer, Sgt. Jim Crowley, and said he wanted "to make clear that in my choice of words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically -- and I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sergeant Crowley."

Obama said he thinks Crowley and Gates both overreacted and said the attention the case is getting indicates race is still a "troubling aspect of our society."

"What I'd like to do then I make sure that everybody steps back for a moment, recognizes that these are two decent people, not extrapolate too much from the facts -- but as I said at the press conference, be mindful of the fact that because of our history, because of the difficulties of the past, you know, African Americans are sensitive to these issues. And even when you've got a police officer who has a fine track record on racial sensitivity, interactions between police officers and the African-American community can sometimes be fraught with misunderstanding," he said.

Obama invited both Gates and Crowley to come to the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs said

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