President Barack Obama called the white police sergeant James Crowley on Friday afternoon and made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room as he tried to defuse the mounting controversy over his comment that the white police acted stupidly by arresting a Harvard professor at his home.
Obama said his chat with Crowley confirmed his sense that the officer was an exemplary policeman and a good man.
The followings are excerpted message from Obama's statement:
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 Sgt. Crowley specifically. And I could have calibrated those words differently. And I told this to Sergeant Crowley.
I continue to believe based on what I have heard that there was an overreaction in pulling professor Gates out of his home to the station. I also continue to believe based on what I heard that professor Gates probably overreacted as well.
My sense is you've got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved. The fact that it has garnered so much attention I think is a testimony to the fact that these are issues that still are very sensitive in America.
My hope is, is that as a consequence of this event this ends up being what's called a teachable moment, where all of us instead of pumping up the volume spend a little more time listening to each other and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities, and that instead of flinging accusations we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity.
Lord knows we need it right now -- because over the last two days as we've discussed this issue, I don't know if you've noticed, but nobody has been paying much attention to health care.
I will not use this time to spend more words on health care, although I can't guarantee that that will be true next week. I just wanted to emphasize that -- one last point I guess I would make. There are some who say that as President I shouldn't have stepped into this at all because it's a local issue.
I have to tell you that that part of it I disagree with. The fact that this has become such a big issue I think is indicative of the fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society.
Whether I were black or white, I think that me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive -- as opposed to negative -- understanding about the issue, is part of my portfolio.