Nightly News   |  April 05, 2013

Obama’s Kamala Harris compliment sparks criticism

An offhand remark by President Obama at a private fundraiser in California has critics complaining that he shouldn’t have referred to California’s top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Kamala Harris, as “the best-looking attorney general in the country.” NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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>>> tonight the president of the united states has issued an apology after an offhanded remark he made last night about a woman's appearance caused a bit of a dust-up today. strong opinions all around. and a lot more to this story than was first reported. we get the story tonight from nbc's andrea mitchell .

>> reporter: when is telling a woman she's good-looking not a compliment? perhaps when the woman is california's top law enforcement officer , a possible future attorney general of the united states , even a potential supreme court nominee .

>> the american dream belongs to all of us.

>> reporter: and the person delivering the compliment is the president of the united states .

>> i do think, you know, it gets into this larger question about women being objectified by men.

>> reporter: it all started with an ad libbed comment at a private fund-raiser in california thursday. mr. obama praised california attorney general camilla harris , a long time friend of his and michelle obama 's as a tough administrator of the law who gives everybody a fair shake. but then mr. obama added, she also happens to be, by far, the best looking attorney general in the country. it's the kind of thing president obama has said on occasion about men and no one complained.

>> there he is. the good-looking guy in the front here. [ laughter ]

>> reporter: this time critics, mostly women, pounced.

>> i'm sure he meant to pay a compliment and be nice, but it just divides women. it divides people up to separate them by looks.

>> reporter: back home the president called harris to make amends.

>> you know, they are old friends and good friends. he did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general's professional accomplishments.

>> when we talk about a woman in an official position and talk about her appearance it does seem to take attention away from her accomplishments.

>> reporter: tonight harris 's spokesman said the attorney general and the president have been friends for many years, had a conversation, and she strongly supports him. brian?

>> with that i say thank you to nbc's andrea mitchell . always good to see you.

>> thank you, brian.