independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Obama sorry for 'best-looking' quip

Barack Obama has been criticised for bringing in a heavily male group of advisers for his second term (AP)

US president Barack Obama has apologised to California's top lawyer for causing a stir when he called her "the best-looking attorney general" at a fundraiser they attended together this week.

The comment instantly lit up social media, with some highlighting it as an example of the hurdles working women still face in the US. Mr Obama was criticised earlier this year for bringing in a heavily male group of advisers for his second term, which started in January.

A spokesman for Kamala Harris said she had a great conversation with Mr Obama and strongly supports him but would not say whether she had accepted his apology. Mr Obama apologised by telephone on Thursday night, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

At a fundraiser in Silicon Valley earlier that day, Mr Obama raised eyebrows when he said Ms Harris "happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general in the country. It's true! C'mon". He prefaced the remark by saying 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".

Ms Harris was present at the fundraiser and addressed the crowd before the president spoke.

Mr Carney and Ms Harris's spokesman, Gil Duran, both noted that Mr Obama and Ms Harris are longtime friends.

"He called her to apologise for the distraction created by his comments," Mr Carney told reporters. "He did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general's professional accomplishments and her capabilities."

Mr Carney went on to say that Mr Obama "fully recognises the challenge women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance".

In an emailed statement, Mr Duran noted the longstanding ties between Mr Obama and Ms Harris. "They had a great conversation yesterday, and she strongly supports him," he said. Mr Duran later declined to say whether Ms Harris had accepted the president's apology or whether she was offended by his comment.

Ms Harris and Mr Obama have campaigned for each other in prior elections. Some pundits have described her as a female version of Mr Obama because of her stage presence and because, like the president, she is of mixed race.

Press Association

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