President Obama will meet with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley at the White House on Thursday, CBS News has confirmed.
The meeting, which has been rumored for the past few days, comes as scrutiny intensifies over Crowley's arrest of the prominent black scholar and Harvard professor.
"This is about having a beer and de-escalate," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Tuesday morning, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.
Asked if the meeting was about race, Gibbs said, "one never gets away from it."
The White House meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Gibbs said it will likely take place at the picnic table outside the Oval Office, next to the White House swing set. Crowley is expected to bring his children, and Gates was also encouraged to bring family.
Crowley, who is white, arrested Gates, who is black, after an investigation into a suspected burglary found no burglars but escalated into a heated exchange between the men at Gates' home. When Mr. Obama said last Wednesday that the police had "acted stupidly," the national debate over racial profiling become so fierce that the president had to intercede again on Friday to get the public's attention back to his health care agenda.
Thus did a brief afternoon encounter turn into an ardently debated conflict in which other Americans drew their own conclusions about racial bias, proper deference to police and a president's appropriate role in a local law enforcement matter.
Mr. Obama phoned Crowley, who suggested the three men sit down for a beer at the White House. The president said he liked the idea, and Gates reportedly concurred when Mr. Obama phoned him next.
Appearing on CBS' "The Early Show," Rev. Jesse Jackson said thatshould be bigger than the meeting of men caught in the national spotlight.
"It's a big subject for a small meeting," Jackson said. "If Rosa Parks and James Blake, the bus driver, had met at the White House and did not deal with the issue of the accommodations, it would have been personal and not politics. And so, this issue of Dr. Gates being a victim of excessive force and bad judgment is a much bigger subject."
"This is a teachable moment," Jackson said, for America to address the issue of profiling. "Racial profiling is deadly, it's costly, expensive and really bad for your health."