President Barack Obama has apologized to California's Attorney General Kamala Harris after praising her looks during remarks at a fundraiser this week, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday.
"They are old friends and good friends, and he did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general's professional accomplishments and her capabilities," Carney said during his daily briefing. "He fully recognizes the challenge women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance."
Obama made the call to Harris, a potential gubernatorial candidate, Thursday night after returning to Washington from a fundraising visit to California.
At an event to benefit the Democratic National Committee earlier in the day, Obama said Harris is "brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough," adding that "she also happens to be, by far, the best looking attorney general in the country."
The comment revived, particularly through social media, the debate over whether Obama's White House is too dominated by men.
Only a day earlier, Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama's senior advisers, called charges that this White House is a "boys club" insulting to high-ranking women within the administration who are playing influential roles.
"He apologized for the remark," Carney said. "And he certainly regretted that it caused that distraction."
Obama's fundraising events followed a stop in Colorado where he sought to rally public support for his gun-control proposals.
Appearing at a police academy, Obama called on those who want to require background checks for anyone buying a gun, one element of his gun-control initiative that enjoys broad popular support, to send that message to Congress.
The Senate returns next week from recess and will probably take up gun-control measures in the next few weeks. Carney said Friday that Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, as well as Vice President Joe Biden, will participate next week in events related to gun control.
Obama will head to Hartford, Conn., on Monday to deliver a speech at the University of Hartford on his plans. He also will meet with families from Newtown, Conn., where in December a gunman killed 26 people, all but six of them children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
On Tuesday, Biden will join law enforcement officials at the White House in support of new gun measures, and he will appear two days later on NBC's "Morning Joe" as part of a roundtable discussion on the issue.
The first lady will travel to Chicago, her hometown, on Wednesday to deliver a speech on the need for new gun-control measures.
Carney said she will speak "from her experience as a Chicagoan and a mother about the importance of providing young people with opportunities to achieve their full potential, including by allowing them to grow up in safe, violence-free communities."