WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama does not expect his "beer summit" will be a mediation session for the black professor and the white policeman who arrested him to work out their differences, the White House said Thursday.
Obama invited Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley to join him for a beer in hopes of quieting the furor over the president's comment that in taking Gates into custody police had "acted stupidly."
Gibbs told reporters that none of the three planned to say anything about their meeting when reporters are allowed to join them Thursday evening during a brief photo opportunity.
"This is not an after action report," Gibbs said, adding that the White House "is not here to mediate any apologies."
Crowley arrested Gates and charged him with disorderly conduct for protesting the policeman's actions when he came to the professor's home in response to a report of a possible break-in. The charges were later dropped.
A new poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 41 percent disapproved of Obama's handling of the Gates arrest, compared with 29 percent who approved. The poll also found that nearly 80 percent of Americans said they are now aware of Obama's comments on the matter.
The president's approval ratings also fell, especially among working class whites, as the focus of the Gates story shifted from details about the incident to Obama's remarks, the poll said. Among whites in general, more disapprove than approve of his comments by a 2-1 margin.
The poll of 1,506 adults was conducted Wednesday to Sunday last week. Among those interviewed on Wednesday and Thursday, 53 percent of whites approved of Obama's job performance. This slipped to 46 percent among whites interviewed Friday through Sunday as the Gates story played out. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
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