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Obama Seeks to Douse Uproar Over Cop Comment

President Barack Obama suddenly appeared in the White House briefing room Friday to try to put to rest the growing controversy over his statement that the Cambridge Police Department had acted “stupidly— in arresting Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a tempest White House aides believe is a distraction from their health reform message.“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but nobody’s been paying attention to health care,— Obama said.The president revealed that he had called the officer, Sgt. James Crowley, to try to set things right in the wake of his comments, made in a press conference Wednesday night. “In my choice of words, I unfortunately gave the impression that I was maligning— the police, Obama told reporters. While appearing to step back from his comments, Obama nevertheless said this afternoon that there was “an overreaction— both on the part of the police department for taking Gates downtown — but also on the part of Gates.Obama called Crowley “an outstanding police officer and a good man,— and he even said he might take Crowley up on an offer that he, Crowley and Gates share a beer at the White House.