Obama Defends Criticism of Cambridge Police in Arrest of Gates

"I support the president of the United States 110 percent," Crowley told WBZ. "I think he's way off base wading into a local issue without knowing all the facts, as he himself stated before he made that comment."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today that the president was not calling the Cambridge police officer stupid when he criticized his actions in the Gates incident.

On whether the president regrets the use of his words, Gibbs said: "No. He was not calling the officer stupid. The situation got out of hand."

Gibbs said he was not aware whether the president had spoken to Gates.

Gates Yelled At Cops

Police were called to Gates' home near Harvard University last week after a woman reported seeing two "black men with backpacks" trying to force open the front door to Gates' house.

The police report said Gates, who was returning from a trip to China and found his front door jammed, at first refused to provide an ID and became unruly. He was charged with disorderly conduct but the charges were dropped this week.

Law enforcement sources told ABC News that the conversation between Gates and Crowley was transmitted over Crowley's open police radio and Gates can be heard yelling.

"Mr. Gates was given plenty of opportunities to stop what he was doing. He didn't. He acted very irrational. He controlled the outcome of that event," Crowley told WBZ.

Crowley said Gates, the director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research and former host of the PBS show "African American Lives," called him a "racist cop."

"There was a lot of yelling, there was references to my mother," he added, "something you wouldn't expect from anybody that should be grateful that you were there investigating a report of a crime in progress, let alone a Harvard University professor."

McDonald defended the police department's record on race.

"This is an excellent police department dedicated to nondiscrimination," he told ABC News. "It was inappropriate to use the situation to implicate the history of racism in America. This had nothing to do with race and everything to do with Gates' behavior."

President Chimes in About Arrest Controversy

At the end of Wednesday night's prime-time news conference that was intended to be chiefly about health care, Obama was asked about the incident, to which he responded: "I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that."

But Obama went on to say, "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. That's just a fact."

Obama acknowledged that Gates is a friend and that since he was not there, he cannot know exactly what role race may have played in the incident. He also acknowledged that the Cambridge police acted appropriately in initially responding to the call that a man was seen forcibly entering the Gates home.

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