US & Canada

Obama sorry over Kamala Harris 'good-looking' comment

Kamala Harris file picture May 2012
Kamala Harris has made sex trafficking and the suffering of young prostitutes a focus of her work

President Barack Obama has apologised to the California attorney general for remarking on her appearance at a fundraising event on Thursday.

Mr Obama described Kamala Harris, a long-time friend, as "the best-looking attorney general in the country".

Ms Harris's spokesman said she strongly supported Mr Obama but would not say whether she had accepted his apology.

Critics have cited the remark as an example of the ongoing hurdles women face in the workplace.

Speaking after Ms Harris at the fundraising event in California on Thursday, Mr Obama said she was "brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you'd want in anybody who is administering the law and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake".

Then he added: "She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country... It's true. Come on. And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years."

On Friday, the White House said the president had spoken to the attorney general to apologise for the "distraction" created by his comments.

"He did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general's professional accomplishments and her capabilities," press secretary Jay Carney said.

He added that the president "fully recognises the challenge women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance".

Writers and bloggers have commented that although the president is a personal friend of Ms Harris and a strong supporter of women's rights, his remarks were inappropriate.