California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris doesn't seem to have a problem with President Obama calling her "by far the best-looking attorney general in the country."
The remark touched off a firestorm, with some calling Obama's words sexist.
On Friday, the president apologized for the remark. "He called her to apologize for the distraction created by his comments," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
Harris has not commented. But according to PolitiCal, her communications director, Gil Duran, issued a statement saying "the attorney general and the president have been friends for many years. They had a great conversation yesterday and she strongly supports him."
Harris, it turns out, once commented on Obama's appearance. The San Jose Mercury News found a 2009 YouTube video in which she says: "He looks and he sounds like a million bucks."
The controversy began Thursday when Obama was at a California fundraiser.
"You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you'd want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake,” he said. “She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country -- Kamala Harris is here. (Applause.) It's true. Come on. (Laughter.) And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years.”
The Times' Robin Abcarian weighed in on the controversy Thursday, saying: "Does merely stating the obvious make the president sexist? More wolfish than sexist, I’d say. And this may be a little problem he needs to work on. ... Obama got into some hot water a while back when he addressed a reporter as 'sweetie.' That was obnoxious, and demeaning, and Obama rightfully apologized. In 2008, he told Hillary Clinton she was 'likable enough' during one of the primary debates, which turned off God knows how many women, who heard the smug judgment of an arrogant upstart.'"
But others saw little middle ground. Some dismissed it as good-natured. Others said it was out of bounds. "On what planet in his mind did he think that sounded like the right thing to say?" writer Rebecca Traister said on Twitter.
The Times' Chris Megerian has a useful roundup of viewpoints about Obama's words. "Some cringed at the remarks, given the historic hurdles women have faced to be recognized for their accomplishments rather than their looks," Megerian wrote.
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