A race row involving a black Harvard scholar, a white policeman and the US president has provoked a media frenzy in America. When Henry Louis Gates was arrested trying to get into his own home, his friend, Barack Obama, intervened saying “the police acted stupidly”.But in a surprise appearance in the White House press briefing, the president tried to diffuse the subsequent media interest. “Because this has been ratcheting up and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up, I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sergeant Crowley specifically and I could have calibrated those words differently,” explained President Obama. Gates was taken into police custody after a neighbour thought he saw someone breaking into his house. Returning from a trip, the prominent academic had found his front door jammed. The police arrived and wrongly assumed Gates was an intruder. The whole incident has raised questions about the current state of race relations in the US.