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The presidential compliment heard around the world

Obama's description of California's Kamala Harris as the 'best-looking attorney general' quickly becomes fodder for conversation. For her part, Harris appears to be brushing off the whole episode.

April 05, 2013|By Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times
  • In this photo from 2012, President Obama greets California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, center, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in San Francisco. Responding to the president's calling Harris the "best-looking attorney general" at a fundraiser Thursday, Harris spokesman Gil Duran said: "The attorney general and the president have been friends for many years. They had a great conversation [Thursday] and she strongly supports him."
In this photo from 2012, President Obama greets California Atty. Gen. Kamala… (Eric Risberg / Associated…)

SACRAMENTO — It was the compliment that spawned a million tweets. And before long, President Obama was apologizing for it.

On Thursday, Obama said California's Kamala Harris was the "best-looking attorney general," and commentators raced for their keyboards and smartphones to denounce the remark as sexist or defend it as benign.

The next day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president had called Harris to apologize for the remark and the distraction it caused.

The comment, made during a Bay Area fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, had become grist for the nonstop, politically charged news cycle. It was discussed in the morning by the hosts of "Fox and Friends" and in the afternoon by CNN's Wolf Blitzer and on countless websites in between.

The president "fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace," Carney said Friday, and believes they "should not be judged by their appearance."

Harris appears to be brushing off the whole episode.

"The attorney general and the president have been friends for many years," said Harris spokesman Gil Duran. "They had a great conversation [Thursday] and she strongly supports him."

He did not say whether Harris took any offense at the compliment, or what she thought of the ensuing controversy.

During the fundraiser, Obama described Harris as "brilliant," "dedicated" and "tough." Then he added: "She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general."

The crowd laughed and Obama said, "It's true! C'mon."

chris.megerian@latimes.com

Times staff writer Christi Parsons contributed to this report.

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