Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama says cops "acted stupidly" in Gates case


WASHINGTON -- While admitting he was not familiar with all the facts in the case, President Obama on Wednesday took the side of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., saying the Cambridge, Mass., police "acted stupidly" in arresting him at his home.

Obama's animated remarks -- punctuated by some humor -- came in reply to my question about the arrest of the noted African American by cops answering a call about a possible break-in. It turned out that Gates was at his own home, and a dust-up happened after the police pressed him for identification.

"What does that incident say to you? And what does it say about race relations in America," I asked the president.

Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School, said he was a friend of Gates, one of the nation's best-known African-American studies scholars, "so I may be a little biased here."

He reminded everyone that as a member of the Illinois state Senate, he worked on a racial profiling bill "because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and Hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in the society."

As for Gates, "I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home, and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately."

The facts are not all known. Gates was not arrested for being in his home, but on a disorderly conduct charge for allegedly mouthing off to the police.

Obama, in a lighter moment, imagined what would happen if, like Gates, he "jimmied his way" into his house.

"I mean, if I was trying to jigger into -- well, I guess this is my house now, so -- it probably wouldn't happen.

"But let's say my old house in Chicago -- here I'd get shot."


I think Obama's spot on in re the Gates incident.

It was unfortunate for Lynn to ask this question when we are trying to address such an important issue - if healthcare reform does not pass she will share a small part of the blame for this distraction.

why did you ask that studid question about prof. gates? you should of asked about the words between alford and boxer.what is wrong with you?
are you just a nother talking head?what happened to the tough news is the only ones that are not afraid of obama.why are you afraid.
why did you not ask him about page 16 of the health bill?or pages 425-430.are you afraid of not getting a story? you no what the truth is
why don`t you ask for the truth?

David W.

ingleside , il

We can ill afford a question like this at a news conference which is attempting to focus an attention-deficit nation on the healthcare debate. Especially, the last question. Already its taking valuable media time away from the healthcare conversation and focusing it elsewhere. While generally a good question to ask, it was the wrong forum, Lynn.

Surly I'm not the only one who is tired of hearing that blacks & latinos are disproportionately stopped by law enforcement for possibly crime involvement when blacks & latinos seem to commit most of the crimes.!!!Watch any news cast hear in the USA & you'll see my comment is not far fetched nor a prejudice statement.

I find it extremely reckless and irresponsible for Obama to comment on this case without knowing the facts. And to call police "stupid" is a total disrespect for the role of a police officer. Police are getting shot and killed walking into situations all of the time. They probably have a protocol of asking a person to step out because they don't know who else is in that house. This professor sounds like a pompous a___, who thinks he's above reproach and carries a chip on his shoulder. When a police officer asks a question, you politely comply and explain the situation. White people know that if you get smart with a cop, you're going to make matters worse, even when you're innocent. Why can't blacks learn this? As for the racial profiling Obama talks about, it isn't profiling if statistics tell you that higher percentages of crime in a certain area are being committed by a certain group. It's smart police work.

Why for all that is holy did you not use your time to ask Obama why he has 32 czars. I cannot understand why you used your time to ask a question when there are far more important questions that you could have asked. To that point why have you not investigated these 32 czars? What is wrong with you people?

After watching the press conf. last night I wanted to puke!!!! Everyone of you so called reporters just don't get it. Here is a man trying to spend trillions of our tax dollars to give to people that don't give anything to society and your asking questions about race. You should be ashamed of yourselves, but you just don't care. How about asking if the people that are in this country that shouldn't be here if they are going to receive the same benefits as the tax paying Americans!!! The Govt. can't find them to throw them out but rest assured they will find them to give them their free healthcare. This country is going down the drain fast and you so called reporters have pulled the plug!!! It's a good thing I'm not your boss because this morning you would be cleaning out your desk!!

I have to agree with the poster above. Lynn, WHAT WERE you thinking in asking a question SO immaterial to the conference?

The WHOLE reason that Mr. Obama held this conference was to address HEALTH CARE, Not Race Relations - Lynn.

And why are you constantly, along with others propagating the "race" issues.......I thought it wasn't about race, yet you, along with many others in the media are salivating at that hope.

Please stick to what the American People care about.....this HEALTH CARE bill - not some Professor, whom no one could care about, getting arrested. (Sorry for the guy....but WAY out of context Lynn.)

gates has a history of eratic behavior. ask larry summers. where is wifey? she don't live there, yes? he threw a nutty on pbs and higgenbothem bailed him out. the staff of his little media empire, the root, transition magazine, and oth trash out of the dubois institute prop up an illusion of him being a prolific black ask martin kilson, emeritis at harvard.
i'm glad you asked lynn, now more will come out of the character of this silly, silly man. this punk.

It's a sad day today in our multicultural home. An unfortunate display of knee-jerk racism and stereotypical urban contempt for the police, reveals a not-so-flattering side of the president of the United States.

Rural American Party
Earning Our Freedom Every Day

Lynn Sweet hit Obama with a sucker punch and he fell for it. Sweet's question was intended to distract from the heal care issue and focus on race. She won- and the country will lose.

First, it was very bad timing to ask this question when healthcare is a more serious issue that must be resolved as soon as possible.

Second, I think President Obama is a great president and a very intelligent man.

Third, this time he was stupid. He is supposed to be a constitutuional expert. The President said he did not have all the facts. Even if you look at both sides of the story, the police were within the guidelines of the 4th Amendment. No matter the race of Professor Gates, the officers also were following patrol SOP. Any one with a familiarity of the procedures for responding to burglary calls would know this. President Obama said the officers acted stupidly and yet he admits he did not have the facts. If the President knew the procedures for responding to this type of call and he understands the 4th Amendment, then this time President Obama acted stupidly.

The President's comments were ill-considered and unwarranted. The officer in question has a stellar record on race, there are many witnesses to Gates' narcissistic and arrogant outburst directed at officers doing their duty in an area where there had been a number of break ins , the President admitted he didn't really know all the facts and the matter seems per Oglethorpe to be still not fully resolved.

My question, Lynn, is was this a set up in which you are involved to distract from the President's inability to make his case on his healthcare initiative? A number of people are charging this.

I think you need to respond to it.

If it was, I think it will fail BTW. He already has the votes of those who think every arrest of a black man is proof of racism. What he needs to hold on to are the majority of Americans who don't think that.


Obama showed his frustration at the repeated offenses against minorities by cops... Obama is human first before he's our President... Logically, him & others should not make official comments without all the facts and the results of the investigation... Keep smiling & praying...

I would also like to know if the question was a "plant" question. Obama made sure he ended with Ms. Sweet.

the question was not a plant.
president obama had no idea what i would ask

Lynn, I am disapponted that your question had nothing to do with the issue of healtcare. You, and he(Mr. Prez) did a great restorining race relations in this country. Keep up the good work of solving the issues at hand such as health care by skirting the issue.

Good Afternoon:

The letter listed below is the e-mail I sent to the President of Harvard.

Additionally, I sent this e-mail to President Obama, various television stations, newspapers, radio shows, the Massachusetts Governor, the Cambridge Mayor; and, the Cambridge Police Commissioner, regarding: Obama, his news conference, Henry Louis Gates, Sgt. Crowley, all those "Stupid" police officers Obama referred to; and, especially to you Ms. Sweet.

Ms. Sweet, for you to be chosen as the last interviewer, and then to ask the only non-healthcare question, was a "set-up.” I believe this question was planned in advance with the White House, as it was bogus....and, way too obvious.

Sgt. Crowley should never apologize to Mr. Gates, and he should be promoted.

You & President Obama (on the other hand) are the “culprits” in this staged question gone “awry.”

Now, just whom do you believe should apologize first to law enforcement in this country? You, or Obama? Listed below is my correspondence to the President of Harvard.

Dear Mr. President:

This whole incident must be a "Harvard" thang! By listening to Mr. Gates' alleged torture and abuse by the police; and, President Obama's premature "stupid" comments directed at the entire police department at his news conference, it's a wonder Harvard isn't placed under Martial Law, just to ensure and protect those Harvard "spokesmen" who seek being in the spotlight, (whenever possible), to further a "cause."

Gates & Obama are perfect examples of nursing and retaining racism, while imploring for the end of racism. Racism - is their "cause." Without racism, Gates surely would not have a position at Harvard; and, Obama would not have won the presidency. One doesn't need a Harvard sheepskin to recognize this grand deception.

I was a correctional officer at one the most dangerous all-male, maximum security penitentiaries in the country, at Stateville, in Joliet, Illinois. I worked the night of the first lethal injection execution in the State of Illinois. Just for the record, the condemned convict was a "white" man.

Additionally, I have worked other security positions, which includes assignments for Federal Inmates Writs for the United States Marshall's office. So, naturally, whenever I hear or read about complaints involving possible police abuse, (and/or racism), it does get my attention.

Although, I do have to give Obama credit for this fiasco. There is definitely a "method to his madness." Lynn Sweet with the Chicago Sun Times is the reporter who opted to ask Obama a non-healthcare question; and, decided to run with a "race relations" question instead; which was the last question of the news conference.

The reporters asking the questions are selected in advance; and, I can only guess (or assume) that the general subject areas of these questions are also revealed in advance. (If for no other reason, than to give Obama a "heads-up without his teleprompter).

I have to hand it to Obama (the master of deception and diversion), he has once again managed to deflect American's attention from his disastrous “hazy” healthcare legislation; and, direct all eyes back to the alleged rampant "racism" in this country. This was a "brilliant" move and "smokescreen" on his part, and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mr. President, since Obama is an alumnus, is there any possibility you could look up his "place of birth?"

I'm sure it must have appeared somewhere on his application to Harvard? Oops! I forgot, Eric Holder took care of all those details his first day in Office.

Obama was in Ohio today for a town hall meeting. He will be in Chicago tonight for a dinner and fundraiser.

Want to guess where Ms. Sweet is tonight? She & Obama can now survey their mess and attempt to initiate some type of "damage control" with her "planted" question; and, Obama's defense to his response.

I just saw a statement from Obama on a news trailer earier regarding his "race relations" remarks last night. Obama stated he couldn't understand what the "controversy" was all about.

It's hard to beieve Obama is a "constitional" lawyer. I believe any lawyer would have responded to Ms. Sweet's ill-conceived and contrived question by replying: "I cannot comment on this, as there is an on-going investigation."

This should have been Obama's reply...but, then again, he was "teleprompter-less."

Sure sounds like a Obama planted question. Even if Ms Sweet denies it.

Why this question during a newser on health care??

Just wondering


Thank you Lynn for asking the question. You just exposed the President for what he truly is, that being, an Acorn hack and low rent community activist. I predicted, among my friends, that a situation like this would occur and that the President would set race relations in this country back 100 years. But hold on, the best is yet to come. We salute our serviceman, police officer, firefighters and all who provide service to all Americans. Shame on you Mr. Obama. Is his four years up only dreaming. Maybe then we call all exhale or at least some of us.

Dear Lynn: Thank you for your question. I am a retired African American NYC Police Officer of 26 years of service. I was 66 years old at the time of my illegal stop by the Maryland State P olice on September 27, 2009. I was traveling on interstate highway 81 within the legal speed limit of 65 mph. It was about 11:30 pm. An automobile races up along side of mine and activates his spotlight on me to ascertain my race. He then manuevers his vehicle behind mine and activates his dome lights. He gets out of his cruiser and spends several minutes trying to view the packaging in my Honda Mini Van. He then approaches the passenger side window and motions for the window to be lowered. My son lowers the window and he asked me, "You know why I stopped you." I resppond, "No". He then points to the rear, stating, "Back there you were traveling 72 mph in a 65 mph speed zone. I sensed that he was up to no good, so I identified myself as a retired NYC Police Officer, displaying my retirement shield. He then requests to see my retired police identification. When I looked into my shield case it wasn't there and I told him so. I then proceeded to show him my Retired NYC PBA Card, my Retired NYC Transportation Pass, my Retired NYC PBA Drug Card with a police shield affixed, and my North Carolina Concealed Weapons Permit to no avail. He asked me if I'm armed. I respond, "Yes". He then states, "This is an Official Investigation Now." He then calls a 10-13 or that equivalent. This call is requested by a police officer who feels that his welfare is in danger. Police cars are arriving from all the nearby police departments including the MSP. He then orders me out of my car. He and his supervisor engage in conversation. They approach me and ask me have I ever been arrested before. They continued to huddle and come to me asking me the same question again and again. At one point, I asked them, "What makes you think that a Retired Police Officer would have been arrested." They look at me with blank expressions. Some time later the Supervisor approaches me and gets within inches of my face and screams, "You're a Liar"! Not only have you been arrested before, but one of the charges is that you assaulted a police officer"! He then directs his officers to search my vehicle without even asking permission. My son observed one of them repositioning the cruiser video cam away from my vehicle. He then tells my son and his friend they could leave, but I wouldn't be going with them. He instructs the officer who stopped me to place mem in cuffs. The arresting officer (Tfc. C. W. Miller, shield #2282) places his cuffs on me as tight as he can causing me great pain in my wrists. He orders me into the passenger front seat of his cruiser While enroute to the Barracks, he strikes me several times with a blunt object. He processes me and takes me before the Magistrate. I am released on my own recognizance. He removes the cuffs and my wrists and hands are swollen. I go to court and the State Prosecutor asks, "What is this case doing here?" I'm not going to prosecute a police officer for carrying a concealed weapon. The Judge concurs with her sentiment. The case is dismissed. I file a complaint and send it to Colonel Terrence Sheridan, Superintendent of the MSP. My complaint is unfounded, and the MSP acted appropriately. What was the purpose of my arrest? Was it to punish me for something I did wrong? Was it to show me theyhad the authority to Racially profile me, illegally stop me, illegally arrest me, assault me with a blunt instrument while cuffed behind my back, assault me with over tightened handcuffs, illegally search my vehicle without asking permission and put me through the legal system and treat me no better than a common criminal and get away with it? If that was there purpose, they succeeded. I was given a Maryland State Traffic Warning to cover for the illegal stop. Every law enforcement agency in our nation knows that a retired police officer can legally carry a concealed weapon in all 50 state. The law that permits it is HR 218 signed into law in 2004 by President Bush. The main culprit in Police Misconduct and Racial Profiling which captures headlines in the news media begins with recruitment of these officers into the many police departments in our nation. Many of these miscreants gravitate to law enforcement professions in order to carry out theiir demented misguided feelings and attitudes they have towards a certain segment of our communities. Their main draw in all of this is that once they are sworn in their outrageous misdeeds and misbehaviors are indemnified by the jurisdictions that hire them. They are well protected within these departments by the llayers of Supervision which condones and sanctions this misbehavior. They also have Police Benevolent Associations which further protect and sanction their misbehavior. Many of these officers are habitual liars and they lie to give cover for their misbehavior. They are left to run amok in many communities because their actions have no impact on the White Community.

I would wager to say that the comment and story written above by Mr. Gooding is frequently a typical response of many white cops.
Mr.Gate's arrest was typical too.
I agree with President Obama that the arrest in Cambridge was stupid,I will go one step further and say it was viscious.
If you haven't read the police report( available on the CNN website)
Racism is alive and well in America!
Yes things have changed in America since the Watts riots of 1963 but the comments behind closed doors haven't.
I have been privy to hear the comment, " He/She must be the product of Affirmative Action" I heard this during the Obama campaign in many diverse circles.

Lynn - would you have asked this question of George Bush? Or of Bill Clinton? I think not. Perhaps you should have thought a bit more before opening your mouth at the press conference.

Lynn,,,,,,,,,,,No doubt,,,,"PROFILING", but for whatever reason many times it is a natural reaction. Somehow we all need to get beyond it, but I'm afraid it is a long way off. We need to just keep trying. The Cambridge issue is not one of profiling,,,, it sounds to me like it is one of an arrogant Harvard Professor trying to throw his weight around with an outstanding community Police Officer.
Here is my e-mail to Morning Joe:
Very simple message,,,,,I simply want to compliment Mika for the discussion she "tried" to lead this morning regarding the Cambridge Police/Professor Gates incident. It absolutely disgusted me to sit and listen to the position Eugene Robinson took regarding the incident,,,,, even using the same word used by President Obama,,,,"stupidly"! Neither Robinson nor Obama know the facts in the case, so in my mind know nothing of what they are talking about. My points:
1. Obama should never have entered into this matter,,,not a presidential matter. He set his main issue back and wasted a lot of time and effort.
2. He had no business using the word "stupidly" in referring to the Cambridge Police. He should apologize for that. Almost any other word,,,,if he felt he had to stick his nose in,,,,,would have been a better choice,,,,but then without a prompter,,hmmmmmm?
3. I see absolutely nothing wrong in what the Police officer did in this case, in responding to a B & E call-in.
4. It sounds like Gates definitley over-reacted and as a result got cuffed. This officer I am sure would have done the same to a white Professor.
5. We all know about profiling and have all done it probably at one time or another. There are plenty of times when I feel it is appropriate,,,,don't care what anyone says,,,,, and I'll bet there are plenty of "African Americans" who do their share of profiling!! We try not to profile,,,,but I feel sometimes is a natural response
6. I am a retired executive of a Fortune 500 company and I have numerous wonderful black "African American" friends.
7. There were times in the late 60's and 70's when, in my old company we were doing government induced profiling!!! We were forced by the government to hire and promote blacks and other minoities including females. Was that not some form of profiling,,,,teaching people to profile,,,even when a person of color or gender didn't quite meet the appropriate standards of a job???
8. Back to Eugene Robinson,,,I can hardly stand this guy's pompous, almost arrogant attitude when he appears on your show. I have never heard him question an Obama Administration action. No doubt he is a brilliant writer and intelligent person. After a morning like this one,,,,I will also label him a racist, simply because of the position he chose to take on the Cambridge incident,,,,referring to his buddy,,,,Rick(Gates)and,,,,,doubting the police report ("if you want to take that as Gospel"). Is he now suggesting the police report is false,,,, not even knowing what it says??? Is he not profiling in his own way,,,suggesting that "YES" there have been false police reports written in the past!
9. It just sickens me to sit and listen to this pompous individual set back race relations with his brain-dead comments regarding the Cambridge incident.
10. Obama should have immediately apologized for his use of the word "stupidly" and this entire matter would have been settled,,,,no harm,,,no foul! At the moment, everyone is getting carried away,,,turning the matter into a racial incident, when it never was. Also, Professor Gates,,,,,the super intelligent reknowned Professor should step forward ,,,, be a big man,,, and show his intelligence by apologizing for the incident. These simple straight-forward actions by Gates and Obama would do wonders for "race relations"
God bless you Mika,,,you are great on the show,,,,and were especially great this morning. Keep up the good, honest fight.


Isn't it interesting that the only comments in this string written in capital letters are from people supporting Gates and yelling "racism"?
Kind of repeating the Gates story about "civilized dialog" and tone. They are barking even here at people they don't even know.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 23, 2009 1:24 AM.

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