Obama-Gates-Cambridge Officer Controversy: Three Wrongs?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 24, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: None of us knows exactly what happened because we were not there, but the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates has ignited a controversy.

Here is what we know. On July 16th, Professor Gates, an African- American came home from China to find his door jammed. A neighbor sees Gates and another man trying to open the door, suspects a break-in, and calls police.

Police rush to the home and Professor Gates gets into a confrontation with the officers, accusing them of racial profiling. The professor ends up being arrested for disorderly conduct. And two nights ago President Obama said the police acted stupidly when the arrested the professor.

Earlier today the Cambridge police union announced it is standing solidly behind the arresting officer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After its own investigation, the Cambridge police department also expressed its support for Sergeant Crowley, clearing him of any wrongdoing.

On behalf of the unions and their members, let me assure everyone that the officers of the Cambridge police department are committed to the professional and non-discriminatory enforcement of the law.

They make hundreds of decisions each week and thousands of decisions each year in the preservation of the peace. Race does not play a role of any kind in that decision making and played no role in the decision making in this case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama said that the actions of the CPD were stupid and linked the even to a history of racial profiling in America. The facts of this case suggest that the president used the right adjective but directed it to the wrong party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that the president should make an apology to all law enforcement personnel throughout the entire country who took offense to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our view is that we think if Governor Patrick and the president reviewed all of the facts which they did not have before them when they made their off the hip remarks, that they would have commented differently.


VAN SUSTEREN: After the police press conference, President Obama surprised the White House press corps by taking the podium and trying to put out the fire.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I actually just had a conversation with Sergeant Jim Crowley, the officer involved. And I have to tell you that, as I said yesterday, my impression of him was that he was an outstanding police officer and a good man, and that was confirmed in a phone conversation, and I told him that.

And because this has been ratcheting up, and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up, I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge police department or Sergeant Crowley specifically.

And I could have calibrated those words differently, and I told this to the 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 -- I also continue to believe based on what I heard that Professor Gates probably overreacted.

The fact that this is 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 me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive as opposed to negative understandings about the issue is part my portfolio.

So at the end of the conversation, there was discussion about -- in my conversation with Sergeant Crowley, there was a discussion about he and I and Professor Gates having a beer in the White House.

We don't know if this is scheduled yet, but we may put that together.



VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us live is a man that you know very well, Ted Williams. He is a criminal defense attorney and a former homicide detective. He has actually made arrests.


VAN SUSTEREN: The real McCoy. All right -- Ted?

WILLIAMS: I have to tell you, Greta, as I look at this, there were three wrongs.

When you look at Professor Gates, he comes home -- just think about this, Sergeant. Crowley -- first of all, let me say this. I know what racism is, I know it racial profiling is. It is not in this case.

Sgt Crowley comes to the scene because he has been called there because of someone acting, suspicious breaking into a home. So what does Sergeant Crowley do? He asks the individual to come out. The individual says, no I'm not coming out.

So, Sergeant corralled him into a back and forth. The guy says, Professor Gates, "I'll go and get my I.D." Sergeant Crowley follows him into the home.

What is wrong with that? Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day. And in this instance, this officer did not know who Professor Gates was. He had every right to follow him in. There was reasonable suspicion that something had happened at that home.

Then we get to the part where there is back and forth leads to where Sergeant Crowley arrests Professor Gates. That was wrong. I do not believe there was enough justification here for an arrest. That's the second wrong.

The third wrong, and it was one that I was real shocked about, is that the president of the United States got involved in this. I do not believe this was a case and a scenario where the president of the United States should have gotten involved in, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think what's troubling about what the president did is the president reached an opinions, at first saying he didn't know the facts, and then he have his opinion. That's not the smartest thing to do.

WILLIAMS: I think if President Obama can walk this back, I think it all the way back as not say anything.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'll tell you what I want. I would like to hear the 911 call and I'd like to hear the transmission calls among the police, and I would like to know what the police officers on the scene said, and also I would like to know what the person who made the phone call came out on the yard has to say.

I would like to know who said what, especially in such an important issue, because this whole racial profiling, essentially racism is a being thrown around. And so I'd like to know come because racism is a terrible thing, and being falsely accused of racism is equally terrible.

WILLIAMS: I can tell you what was said. And wasn't there, but I have heard Professor Gates. And Professor Gates said that at one stage or another, the officer was looking at this I.D. and he said, trying to identify who Professor Gates was.

He was not responding to Professor Gates. And this is what Professor Gates said, he said "Why are you not responding to me? Are you not responding to me this because you are a white officer and I am a black man?"

VAN SUSTEREN: So he brought it up first?

WILLIAMS: Professor Gates brought racism into this matter first.

Quiet naturally, racism, as I said, exists. Black men certainly know when they come in contact with law enforcement officers how to react -- that they react in a certain way because there is racism there. But this was not a case of racism.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think it will be very interesting to see as we get more facts, find out, get the transmissions, and hopefully that will give us even more information about it, because it has obviously caused quite a firestorm.

Ted, always nice to see. I miss you, Ted.

WILLIAMS: Same here, my pleasure.

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