Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and the cop who arrested him outside of his home could have a sit-down over suds with President Barack Obama at the White House as early as this week, officials said today.
Obama invited both men to talk over the controversy that ignited national fervor -- and the president hopes to have the pair meet over beers at the White House "within the next several days," press secretary Robert Gibbs said on "Fox News Sunday."
"The president believes this can be a teachable moment," Gibbs said. "He feels he unnecessarily contributed to the frenzy. Cooler heads have prevailed."
Obama hoped the meeting would help calm the uproar created after he said the Cambridge, Mass., cops "acted stupidly" for arresting the Harvard prof, who is black, outside of his home when responding to a burglary call. He later backed off the remark.
Obama invited both Gates and the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, who is white, for a "beer here in the White House," he said last week.
"He understood that the debate was veering off in the wrong direction, and, as he said, that his words may have contributed to that," Obama advisor David Axelrod said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"So he felt a responsibility to step forward and kind of cool the situation down," Axlerod said. "I think the president sees this as an opportunity to get dialogue going on an issue that's been historically troubling."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday she approved of Obama's use of diplomacy.
"I think that's leadership by example, and I really commend him for that," she said on an interview that aired on NBC's "Meet the Press." "If something constructive can come out of this latest incident, it will be that people around the country are talking about the continuing challenges we face."
In the past, Obama said he believes both Gates and Crowley overreacted but said his comments contributed to "ratcheting it up" and that he could have "calibrated" his words differently.
Crowley responded to a a 911 call on July 16 signaling two men were trying to break into Gates' home on July 16. Gates, who had recently returned from an overseas trip, was unable get into the house and he and his driver were attempting to open the door. The prof was arrested for disorderly conduct but charges were later dropped.
Obama said last week the cops who arrested Gates "acted stupidly" when they collared the professor who was attempting to get into his locked home.
"But I think it's fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry," Obama said. "No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arrested somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And No. 3 -- what I think we know separate and apart from this incident -- is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact. "