TODAY   |  April 06, 2013

Obama apologizes for ‘best looking’ comment

When is telling a woman she's good looking NOT a compliment? President Barack Obama told a group of donors that Kamala Harris, the California attorney general, is the “best-looking attorney general in the country.” The comment soon went viral, with women across the country weighing in. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> apology by the commander in chief after his remarks about a woman's looks drew fire. now here's more from andrea mitchell .

>> reporter: when teis telling a woman she's good looking not a compliment? a possible future attorney general of the united states , even a potential supreme court nominee .

>> the american dream belongs to all of us.

>> reporter: and the person delivering the compliment is the president of the united states .

>> i do think, you know, it gets into this larger question about women being objectified by men.

>> reporter: it all started with an ad lib comment at a fund-raiser in california on friday. he praised pamela harris, long-time friend of his and michelle obama 's as a tough administrator of the law who gives everyone a fair shake. then mr. obama added she also happens to be, by far, the best looking attorney general in the country. it's the kind of thing the president has, on occasion, even said about men and no one complained.

>> there he is, good-looking guy in the front here.

>> reporter: this time, critics, mostly women, pounced.

>> i'm sure he meant to pay a compliment to her and he meant to be nice but, quite frankly, it just divides women and divides people up to separate them by looks.

>> reporter: back home, he called harris to make amends.

>> they are old friends and good friends and he did not want, in any way, to diminish the attorney general's professional accomplishments.

>> and when we talk about a woman in an official position and talk about her appearance, it does seem to take attention away from her accomplishments.

>> reporter: for "today," andrea mitchell , nbc news.

>> what were you thinking? if i paid you a compliment right now, would you --

>> i know you well enough that i know it's coming from you, it would be very well intentioned. i'm staying out of it all.

>> i would be happy to take one to try. justly for example, say --

>> you look beautiful.

>> oh, gosh, thank you so much.

>> you say that. i can say you look great.

>> i'll take it. i'll take it. did i tell you, you look great?