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Obama tells Lynn Sweet police acted "stupidly" in arresting Gates

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Excerpt from the transcript on the press conference with President Barack Obama:

Okay? All right. I tried to make that short so that Lynn Sweet would get her -- the last question in.

LYNN SWEET: Thank you, Mr. President. Recently, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested at his home in Cambridge. What does that incident say to you? And what does it say about race relations in America?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I -- I should say at the outset that Skip Gates is a friend, so I may be a little biased here.

I don't know all the facts. What's been reported, though, is that the guy forgot his keys, jimmied his way to get into the house; there was a report called into the police station that there might be a burglary taking place.

So far, so good, right? I mean, if I was trying to jigger into -- well, I guess this is my house now, so -- (laughter) -- it probably wouldn't happen.

(Chuckling.) But let's say my old house in Chicago -- (laughter) -- here I'd get shot. (Laughter.) But so far, so good. They're -- they're -- they're reporting. The police are doing what they should. There's a call. They go investigate. What happens?

My understanding is, at that point, Professor Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in. I'm sure there's some exchange of words. But my understanding is -- is that Professor Gates then shows his ID to show that this is his house, and at that point he gets arrested for disorderly conduct, charges which are later dropped.

Now, I've -- 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 is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcing disproportion ately. That's just a fact.

As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois, we 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.

That doesn't lessen the incredible progress that has been made. I am standing here as testimony to the progress that's been made. And yet the fact of the matter is, is that, you know, this still haunts us.

And even when there are honest misunderstandings, the fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up more frequently, and oftentime for no cause, casts suspicion even when there is good cause. And that's why I think the more that we're working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we're eliminating potential bias, the safer everybody's going to be.

All right? Thank you, everybody.

Q One more, Mr. President.

END.

16 Comments

What an absolutely stupid question you asked. Of all the issues swirling around this administration, you ask the softball of the night.

You've just demonstrated exactly what is wrong with the obama-media and why true journalism died for good in 2008.

Your publication should be ashamed they sent you.

Ms. Sweet

I had more respect for you than you demonstrated this evening. You went to a news conference on the future of health care in this country and apparently slept through it. Your question at this evenings news conference was intended to divert the spot light from the important issues of the topic of the conference and gain you a brief moment on the national stage. Your question was not relevant to the discussion of the future of health care in this nation. It was obviously self serving, intended to hijack and misdirect the discussion, thus was an obvious effort to make you the focal point of the news conference by playing to a 'race card' issue which was not the intent of the news conference. You proved you are not a journalist interested in contributing to the national dialog on important issues, but rather just another hack who looks for the deception and distractions that effectively undermines the intelligent discussion of critical issues and promotes your career.

The issue of race relations in this country is an ongoing concern and worthy of deep education and discussion. It was not, however, the issue of the news conference and most journalists understood that point. Keep your focus on the topic at hand and not on what will give YOU the best byline.

Great question, Lynn!!! AND, you look fabulous! He spoke the truth to you, and the country is SO fortunate!!! Your old pal and colleague, N.M.

I watched & I'm wondering y was it so important for to ask that question it had nothing to do with healthcare, if your going to ask a question that has nothing to do with the subject being discussed than don't you think it should have been about OUR soldiers in Afghanian & how were doing their

Dumb question and even dumber answer. Probably a set up. Sweet is virtually a member of the White House press staff. Obama admits he doesn't know all the facts and that he is "biased." Then he says the cops acted "stupidly" for responding to a burglarly call and detaining the raging,out-of control racist that confronted them. A new low for pressidential dignity and decorum. But then again, Obama sat for 20 years shouting amens to the paranoid racist ramblings of Reverend Wright. OF COURSE he reflexively sympathizes with professional grievance monger Gates. And Sweet's softball saved him from struggling with the substance of a "plan" he clearly does not understand. Not that anyone else does either.....

MR. PREZ. YOU GET AN "f". IT IS WHAT IT IS,RACISM. OH,YOU CAN'T SAY IT BECAUSE : THIS IS NOT A BLACK AMERICA OR A WHITE AMERICA OR A HISPANIC AMERICA THIS IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA....SO YOU THOUGHT....AND BY THE WAY.COULD YOU STOP SAYING BLACKS AND HI SPANICS THEY NEVER SAY HI SPANICS AND BLACKS. THEY ARE OUR COMPETITORS.LOVE U BRO.

So when did the WH call you Lynn? I love how they just keep planting questions in these press conferences. Nice "journalism" lady. Perfect placement, timing and subject. Perfect diversion. I suppose it's just a coincidence you're from Obama's home town and you get that question in there. They control you people completely. This administration is all about misdirection. Get everyone talking about something else.

Though I am a blond over blue MALE, I would not even think about popping off to a police officer unless I wanted to be spread eagled on a Crown Vic hood. If I were 'jiggering' as Obama said, I would expect the officer might think that yes I owned the house but I must give him time to check and see if maybe I had a restraining order against me by the spouse living there, or that my property was now owned by the bank etc. If a male of any race or age thinks he is above suspicion, check the crime stats. It is not silver haired ladies with crochet needles or young mothers with darling children in arm who commit the majority of crimes. Also, if I mouthed off about my rights, I would expect the officer to ask me to allow a sobriety test.

YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE ASKED THAT QUESTION IN THAT SETTING!
I RESPECT YOU BUT YOU PUT THE MAN ON THE SPOT, AND YOU PROBABLY GOT AN ANSWER YOU DIDN'T EXPECT, BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, IT IS LIKE SENATOR OBAMA SAID AT THE TIME, HE COULDN'T EVEN GET A CAB IN CHICAGO!
HERE WE ARE ON ALL OVER THE WORLD, AND PRESIDENT OBAMA GAVE YOU AN ANSWER, ONLY A REAL MAN WOULD GIVE, I GUESS NO ONE WILL EVER ASK IS HE BLACK ENOUGH, NOW!
THAT IS A HORRIFYING FEELING TO BE HANDCUFFED LIKE A CRIMINAL, JUST THINK HOW THE PROFESSOR FELT, JET-LAGGED, IN HIS OWN HOUSE, HE SHOW ID, AND IS STILL CUFFED LIKE AN ANIMAL, PRESIDENT OBAMA GAVE YOU THE TRUTH, AND SOME OF YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH, BUT I THINK WE ARE CRYSTAL CLEAR NOW!
STOP PROFILING AFRICAN-AMERICANS, AND LATINOS, WE ARE IN THE 21ST CENTURY, NO EXCUSE FOR THIS KIND OF SITUATION, THIS IS WHY THE FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS STOPPED THE DEATH PENALTY, BECAUSE HE KNEW THOSE MEN (BLACK) HAD BEEN PROFILED, AND THEY WERE GETTING EXECUTED FOR CRIMES THEY HADN'T EVEN COMMITTED!
A HARVARD PROFESSOR GETS HANDCUFFED IN HIS OWN HOUSE, UNBELIEVEABLE!
BE CAREFUL WOULD YOU ASK, YOU MIGHT GET THE TRUTH

this was a press conference on healthcare - what was that question about? wrong time, wrong place, wrong question. way to represent chicago.

PHIL SMITH JR

Your an idiot... Its because of Americans like you that this nation has become a cesspool of entitlement programs. If those races would start taking responsibility for each other and pulling them selves up on their own like my ancestors (the Irish) did without whining and complaining about their rights, things would be different. The bottom line is there are more blacks and Hispanics in prison per capita and otherwise. Why do you think that is? Its not called racial profiling, its called proactive intelligent screening. If 99 out of 100 B&E's are committed by purple people you better be looking for purple people who are breaking in houses. And The police were just doing their job, but this uppity self righteous so called professor took this opportunity to gripe at the officers instead of thanking them for protecting his house. And when you yell and holler at police they aren't just going to stand there. They are going to take you to jail for a legitimately broken law... Nuff said.

And this entire topic is what is wrong with America right now. We've got more important things to deal with than this stuff which could have been avoided if this racist hadn't of acted up with the police, Just because he can. This reverse discrimination is out of control, and I'm sick of this card being played.

I thought the forum was to ask questions about the healthcare bill. WHAT ON EARTH WOULD POSSESS YOU TO ASK THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES ABOUT A PROBLEM THAT WOULD NOT HAVE GARNERED NOR WARRENTED THE ATTENTION OF ANY OTHER PRESIDENT TO ANSWER HOW HE FELT ABOUT AN ARREST OF AN AFRICAN AMERICAN MAN. Why? I would have hoped by now President Obama would have earned enough respect to leave those kind of issues to the local level police instead of making it the President of the United States business! There is no doubt this arrest warrented discussion - BUT NOT WITH THE PRESIDENT!!!!! I am an African American and feel very strongly about this arrest - BUT - this was NOT the appropriate platform to address your question. The President has other issues more important to address - now, because he gave an honest answer, he is not being dissected and diverted. You could have asked that question at a different meeting.

I have one question: Do we interpret this as the professor and the police officer being called into the principal's office? Or are they being rewarded with beer for their seemingly improper behavior?

This to me is almost a Jerry Springer moment, giving undeserved media presence to people who behaved badly - I don't think President Obama is doing right by inviting them to the White House, unless these two folks agree and admit to their mistakes, which I seriously doubt... there are so many people in our beautiful country that do great deeds every day and would be much more deserving of personal face time with the President. I totally agree with Regena that the President of the US must have more important issues to address... and by the way, if the black guy wasn't a professor, we wouldn't be talking about this!!!

Dear Ms. Sweet,
Can't say as I would agree with you on any of the issues of the day since I haven't read much of your other writings, but wanted once again to show you one of my answers to those who would revile and blame you for doing your job; the job which is woefully lacking in journalism these days.

It was time ... time for the honeymoon to be over. It's not your fault, in fact you may be among the first wave of reporters to begin to actually question the President; you may eventually be viewed as a role model if there are any true reporter's hearts still beating in the press rooms of the U.S. You may still be afforded that honor along with Major Garrett and a few others . . .

But how ever the chips fall for you in regard to that, here is how I would answer people who blame you for sidetracking the discussion on National Healthcare:

It was always the president's choice to answer or to deflect or to outright say 'it's not my business', 'it's a local matter', 'I'll look into it', 'ask me tomorrow', or 'stay on point'.

No matter what the perceived or possible consequences of any of those answers might have been, he always had those choices irt what to say or not say.

He made his own choice.

For what ever reason, he chose to give in to his own ill-informed knee-jerk feelings and anger by answering the question in almost the worst way he could have.

You did your job. And in a normal world, you would have (maybe you did) realized what a score you made and what a 'scoop' you scored. :)

You are neither hero nor villain; you, are for this moment in time and forever when we look back upon it, a reporter.

I personally believe that he had an outstanding command to handle issues, and also in tackle different press questions.

Maybe we're getting a different view of your President but here in the UK it seems that Americans are less than impressed with Obama so far. Am I correct?

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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 22, 2009 8:46 PM.

Obama July 22, 2009 press conference. Transcript was the previous entry in this blog.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, July 23, 2009. Chicago visit is the next entry in this blog.

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