After pointedly saying he believed the Cambridge, Massachusetts police acted stupidly to arrest Harvard academic Henry Louis Gates Jr. for disorderly conduct in his own home, President Obama only ended up fanning the flames of the controversy. The GOP and police officials criticized him while questions were raised about how much racial progress has been made in the country. Obama defended his remarks last night on Nightline, saying, "I have to say I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement, because 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."
Obama added, "I think that I have extraordinary respect for the difficulties of the job that police officers do. And 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. That's my suspicion." Here's video:
Sergeant James Crowley, who arrested Gates last week, told a local Boston TV station, "I acted appropriately...I support the president of the United States 110 percent. I think he's way off base wading into a local issue without knowing all the facts, as he himself stated before he made that comment." He added that Gates was shouting, "Mr. Gates was given plenty of opportunities to stop what he was doing. He didn't. He acted very irrational. He controlled the outcome of that event...There was a lot of yelling, there was references to my mother, something you wouldn't expect from anybody that should be grateful that you were there investigating a report of a crime in progress, let alone a Harvard University professor."
It was also pointed that Crowley teaches a racial profiling class at the police academy; Lowell Police Academy Director Thomas Fleming said, "Former police commissioner Ronny Watson, who is a person of color, hand-picked Sgt. Crowley. ... I presume because he would be the most qualified and most professional. He’s a very good instructor. He gets very high reviews by the students." The Cambridge police chief promised a review of the arrest, but said he supported Crowley and that Obama's remarks "deeply hurts the pride of this agency."