Obama calls white policeman who arrested scholar

Obama Friday telephoned a police officer and regretted his choice of words when talking about the arrest of a black Harvard scholar
Obama Friday telephoned a police officer and regretted his choice of words when talking about the arrest of a black Harvard scholar

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has called the white policeman who arrested black Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. The president says he believes the sergeant to be an outstanding police officer.

The president said Friday that he continues to think both the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, and Gates overreacted during the incident - but Obama also faulted his own comments.

Making an impromptu appearance at the daily White House briefing, Obama told reporters: "I could've calibrated those words differently."

The president caused a stir when he said at a prime-time news conference earlier this week that police in Cambridge, Mass., had "acted stupidly" by arresting Gates.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House says the media's "obsessions" are keeping alive President Barack Obama's comments about the arrest of a Harvard scholar seen trying to get into his own house.

Asked whether Obama regretted commenting on the matter, spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that the president probably would regret distracting the media with "obsessions."

Gibbs says Obama has "great respect" for police officers and understands what a hard job they have.

He also says Obama has said most of what he's going to say on the matter.

When questioned Wednesday night about the incident, Obama said the Cambridge, Mass., police had "acted stupidly."

In an interview a day later, he said "cooler heads should have prevailed."