(CNN) Alabama U.S. Senate candidate and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared to refer to Henry Louis Gates Jr., a celebrated Black Harvard University scholar, as “some criminal” in a New York Times Magazine article published Tuesday.
According to CNN, Gates had been wrongfully arrested by a Cambridge, Massachusetts, police officer in 2009 as he tried to enter his own home. After the incident, then-President Barack Obama invited Gates and the arresting officer to the White House for a “beer summit.”
Sessions appeared to cite that meeting as a reason that morale among law enforcement had dropped during Obama’s presidency.
“The police had been demoralized. There was all the Obama — there’s a riot, and he has a beer at the White House with some criminal, to listen to him,” Sessions said, appearing to refer to the 2009 meeting. “Wasn’t having a beer with the police officers. So we said, ‘We’re on your side. We’ve got your back, you got our thanks.’ “
While Sessions said Obama didn’t have a beer with “the police officers,” Sgt. Joe Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department — the arresting officer in the incident — did join Gates, Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden for a beer at the White House during the summit.
Sessions’ campaign did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. The New York Times Magazine asked Sessions’ campaign to clarify what he meant by the comment but the campaign declined.