AP Headline On Obama-Gates Critical of Prez; Actual Story Lapses Into Racial Cliches

Someone at the Associated Press got a headline mostly right ("Obama rushes to quell racial uproar he helped fire") -- although you still have to wonder if it had been almost anyone else, if something along the lines of "xxxx stops short of full apology" would have been used instead.

AP writer Nancy Benac's story does note a couple of clear negatives in Barack Obama's behavior in the Henry Gates matter, but it also lapses into blather about "the nation's keen sensitivities on matters of race."

Benac also blew by an incendiary comment by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the President's police union critics reported earlier today at the Politico -- "I think the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed McCain, if I'm not mistaken" -- that surely would not have been ignored had a Republican president's PressSec had made a similar statement about a Democrat-endorsing group. It as if, in Gibbs's world, partisanship is the only reason the FOP defended officer James Crowley.

Here are key paragraphs from Benac's report:

Knocked off stride by a racial uproar he helped stoke, President Barack Obama hastened Friday to tamp down the controversy. Obama, who had said Cambridge, Mass., police "acted stupidly" in arresting black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., declared the white arresting officer was a good man and invited him and the professor to the White House for a beer.

Obama conceded his words had been ill-chosen, but he stopped short of a public apology. He personally telephoned both Gates and Sgt. James Crowley, hoping to end the rancorous back-and-forth over what had transpired and what Obama had said about it.

.... Hours earlier, a multiracial group of police officers had stood with Crowley in Massachusetts and said the president should apologize.

It was a measure of the nation's keen sensitivities on matters of race that the fallout from a disorderly conduct charge in Massachusetts - and the remarks of America's first black president about it - had mushroomed to such an extent that he felt compelled to make a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room to try to put the matter to rest. The blowup had dominated national attention just as Obama was trying to marshal public pressure to get Congress to push through health care overhaul legislation - and as polls showed growing doubts about his performance.

.... The president did not back down from his contention that police had overreacted by arresting the Harvard professor for disorderly conduct after coming to his home to investigate a possible break-in. He added, though, that he thought Gates, too, had overreacted to the police who questioned him. The charge has been dropped.

Obama stirred up a hornet's nest when he said at a prime-time news conference this week that Cambridge police had "acted stupidly" by arresting Gates, a friend of the president's. Still, Obama said Friday he didn't regret stepping into the controversy and hoped the matter would end up being a "teachable moment" for the nation.

Oh, it was "teachable," all right. One lesson is that an AP writer covering Obama can wait until the sixth paragraph to report the President's long since-refuted claim that the police overreacted. Another is that a Press Secretary's blatant politicization of a clearly non-political event can be ignored at the Essential Global News Network and still meet whatever remains of its journalistic standards.

Commenters can weigh in on other lessons learned.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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