Obama Apologized to Kamala Harris For Calling Her the 'Best Looking Attorney General'

Illustration for article titled Obama Apologized to Kamala Harris For Calling Her the Best Looking Attorney General

Obama has apologized to California attorney general Kamala Harris for praising her looks along with the qualities that actually make her good at her job at a recent fundraiser.

From TPM:

"He called her last night and spoke to her," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Friday. "He apologized for the buzz this has created. They are old friends....He believes and fully recognizes that there are challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged on appearance. He apologized for creating this distraction and believes very strongly that attorney general harris is an excellent attorney general and that she has done great work and is dedicated and tough and brilliant."

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Was it wrong of Obama to call Harris "the best looking attorney general" while listing her many other attributes? Yes. Women put up with enough unsolicited attention as it is; the president of our country doesn't need to legitimize the practice by piling on. Was it a mega fiasco along "legitimate rape" lines? No way, and his apology is legit. But we're not being "oversensitive" (as Fox's Gretchen Carlson suggested) by talking about it. Obama wasn't hanging with Harris in a social context when he complimented her looks; he was listing her skills in an attempt to promote both Harris and himself. Last we checked, you didn't need to be the best looking attorney general to be good at your job.

[TPM]

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DISCUSSION

I posted this on Gawker earlier, but just for the sake of complete fairness, it's worth noting that President Obama often introduces high ranking male officials by commenting on their looks, too. Last February, he introduced HUD secretary Shaun Donovan as "the good-looking guy in the front here." A month later he pointed out that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is "a good-looking guy." And earlier this year he called Ray Mabus an "outstanding Secretary of the Navy," adding, "There he is right there — the good-looking guy over at the end."

Is it the exact same thing? No, because of course there's the stigma of a woman having a harder time being taken seriously if her looks are what's being praised (it's all anyone is talking about in regards to Kamala Harris today). But I'm just saying that it's true that he very well might have said the same thing if the Attorney General had been a man instead.