President Barack Obama made an unexpected appearance at a White House news conference on Friday to say the media frenzy sparked after his comments on the arrest of African American Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a testimony that these are issues that still very sensitive in America.

Obama said that because of the history of the country, African Americans are sensitive to these issues. He also said the fact that this has become a big issue, is because racism is a big part of the society.

Me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive as opposed to negative understandings in the issue, is part of my portfolio, President Obama said today.

Obama's comments sparked controversy in the media as it fired up passions about race. Obama had previously said police acted stupidly in arresting the professor.

Today Obama said he had a conversation with the officer involved, and his impression of him was that he was an outstanding police officer. Obama said he continued to believe that there was an overreaction in pulling professor Gates out of his home to the police station but acknowledged professor Gates also overreacted.