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Obama calls compliment a 'teaching moment'

April 17, 2013|By Chris Megerian
  • President Barack Obama smiles before boarding the Marine One helicopter in San Francisco.
President Barack Obama smiles before boarding the Marine One helicopter… (Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty…)

President Obama says he's learned a lesson about complimenting a woman's appearance in public.

The president caused a stir earlier this month when he said California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris was "the best-looking attorney general in the country."

In an interview aired on Wednesday by NBC's "Today" show, Obama said the whole episode "was a useful teaching moment for me and for the country."

Obama was speaking at a Bay Area fundraiser when he made the remark about Harris' appearance. He said she is "brilliant," "dedicated" and "tough," then added, "she also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general.”

The next day his press secretary said the president had apologized for the compliment, which some commentators had called sexist.

Obama told the "Today" show that he had been joking with Harris, a longtime friend and ally, before speaking at the fundraiser. When he made the same joke during his speech, he said some people "reacted negatively."

"As the father of two daughters, I wanna make sure that they're judged on the merits and not on their appearance," he said. "And so I've got no problem in people, I think, using what was intended as an innocuous comment to make this larger point that we wanna make sure that women are judged based on the job they do and not how they look."

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Twitter: @chrismegerian

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