WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is standing by his assertion that police did not need to arrest a Harvard scholar who was trying to get into his own home.
Obama said in an interview with ABC that he has "extraordinary respect" for the challenges and hardships that law enforcement officers face every day in their line of work. But at the same time he said he didn't think it was necessary to arrest Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Obama said "cooler heads should have prevailed" in the incident. But he did not retract his initial statement that he thought police had "acted stupidly" and said such incidents "get elevated in ways that probably don't make much sense."
Obama added, "It doesn't make sense to arrest a guy in his own home if he's not causing a serious disturbance."
Cambridge Police Department Commissioner Robert C. Haas said in a press conference late Thursday that his department was "deeply pained" by the president's comments yesterday.
"I believe that Sgt. Crowley acted in a way that's consistent with his training and national standards," Haas said. "I don't believe in any way that his actions were racially motivated."
Political reaction largely fell along party lines, reports Bloomberg News.
“He sounded more like a community organizer last night than the president of the United States,” said Richard Viguerie, a longtime Republican fundraiser and activist. “This is not Mississippi in the 1950s. This is Cambridge, Massachusetts.”
Democratic Representative Barbara Lee, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, called Obama’s remarks “right on target.”
The arrest is “an example of the unfinished business of America and inequalities and the racism that continues to exist,” Lee said yesterday at a news conference.
In an off-camera press conference today, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said that President Obama regrets speaking out on the issue because it has distracted the press from more substantive issues like health care.
ABC News, Bloomberg News and the Associated Press contributed to this report
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