Barack Obama Tries Calming Racial Blaze With Regret And Beer
Barack Obama, the US President, is seeking to put off a raging racial flame with an expression of regret for saying that police had "acted stupidly" in arresting a black scholar and an offer to patch up with beer at the White House.
"Because this has been ratcheting up and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up, I wanted to make clear in my choice of words I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically," Obama said on Friday.
"And I could have calibrated those words differently," he added in a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing room shortly after he spoke by phone to Crowley.
Crowley, who had last week arrested Henry Louis Gates - a prominent scholar of African-American studies at Harvard, suggested Obama invite him and Gates to the White House for a peace-making beer and a plan was in the works to do so, Obama said.
Obama later called Gates, had a positive discussion, told him about his phone call with Crowley and invited him to join Crowley at the White House in the near future, the White House said.
Obama said he hoped the event would end up being a "teachable moment, where all of us instead of pumping up the volume spend a little more time listening to each other" and improve race relations "instead of flinging accusations".
Obama did not apologise for his remark but repeated that he believed his choice of words was unfortunate. He reiterated his assertion that he believes police overreacted, but said Gates "probably overreacted as well".
Obama said earlier he was "surprised by the controversy surrounding" his comments.
"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 told.
When Obama waded into the story by answering a question about it during his news conference Wednesday night, he admitted that he "may be a little biased" because Gates is a friend. "I don't know all the facts," he also conceded.