President Obama called California Attorney General Kamala Harris to apologize for the "distraction" created when he remarked on her good looks, Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday.
Obama touched off a firestorm -- and won the Washington Post's 'Worst Week in Washington' -- when he lauded the AG for her appearance, as well as her job performance. The remarks came at a California fundraiser as Obama singled out Harris and Rep. Mike Honda, two of the elected officials attending the event. (Honda's appearance didn't get quite the presidential rave: 'He's not like a real tall guy,' Obama said of Honda, "but he's a great guy."
Of Harris, he said, "You have to be careful to, first of all, say 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, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake," Obama said of Harris. "She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country."
And he went on, "It's true. Come on," he said, adding as the audience laughed, "And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years"
Critics seized on the remarks -- some calling it sexist and inappropriate -- and Obama picked up the phone to apologize Thursday night when he got back from his trip, Carney said, noting that Obama and Harris are "old friends and good friends.
Obama, Carney said, "fully recognizes the challenge women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance."
Asked whether Obama believes the remark was sexist, Carney repeated for that he had apologized, and "certainly regretted that it caused that distraction."