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File | Associated Press
In this Feb. 16, 2012, photo President Barack Obama walks with California Attorney General Kamala Harris after arriving at San Francisco International Airport.

Obama apologizes to California AG for comment on looks

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has apologized to California Attorney General Kamala Harris for causing a stir when he called her “the best-looking attorney general” at a Democratic fundraiser they attended together this week.

A spokesman for Harris said she had a great conversation with Obama and strongly supports him but would not say whether she had accepted the president’s apology.

Obama apologized to Harris by telephone Thursday night after returning from two days of fundraising in California, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

At a fundraiser in Silicon Valley earlier that day, Obama raised eyebrows when he said 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.”

Harris was present and had addressed the crowd before the president spoke.

The “best-looking” comment instantly lit up news blogs and websites, with some highlighting it as an example of the hurdles working women still face.

Carney and Harris’ spokesman, Gil Duran, both noted that Obama and Harris are longtime friends.

“He called her to apologize for the distraction created by his comments,” Carney told reporters Friday. “He did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general’s professional accomplishments and her capabilities.”

He noted that Obama also commented on Harris’ smarts.

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

In an emailed statement, Duran noted the long-standing ties between Obama and Harris.

“They had a great conversation yesterday, and she strongly supports him,” he said.

Duran later said he would not comment beyond the statement. He declined to say whether Harris had accepted the president’s apology or whether she was offended by his comment.

Harris had scheduled no public appearances Friday and was not expected to comment herself.

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

Associated Press writer Don Thompson in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this report.

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