President Obama attempted to quiet down the intense discussion over his remarks about Harvard academic Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s arrest by making a "surprise" appearance during a press briefing and telling reporters that he called Cambridge police sergeant James Crowley, who arrested Gates, "I have to tell you that, as I said yesterday, my impression of him is that he was an outstanding police officer...and that was confirmed in the phone conversation... In my choice of words, I unfortunately gave the impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically." He also apparently invited Crowley to the White House for a beer—with Gates as well.
Obama had said during his Wednesday night press conference that he thought the Cambridge police "acted stupidly" to arrest Gates in his own home, after Gates established he lived there. The President reiterated yesterday, "I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary that you probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who's in his own home," but added, "My suspicion is that words were exchanged between the police officer and Mr. Gates and that everybody should have just settled down and cooler heads should have prevailed."
Today, Obama said again he thinks both parties probably overreacted and added, "The fact that it has garnered so much attention, I think, is a testimony to the fact that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in American. And, you know, so to the extent that my choice of words didn't illuminate, but rather contributed to more media frenzy, I think that was unfortunate."
Steve Killion, president of the Cambridge patrol officers association, appreciated the call from Obama to Crowley, telling the Boston Globe, "I'm sure, knowing Sergeant Crowley, it's mended the fence with him... I'm absolutely pleased with [Obama's call]. I think it was a good thing for the president to do. He's the commander in chief, he's in charge. Whether or not he should be involved in local politics, he runs the country. We all want to see this behind us.''