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President Obama called California Attorney General Kamala Harris to apologize for complimenting Harris on her looks during a fundraiser, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

"He apologized for it and regrets the distraction it caused," Carney said in a White House press briefing on Friday.

Obama was speaking at a Democratic National Committee event in Atherton on Thursday when he praised Harris for her intelligence, her dedication to public service and the fact that she is the "by far the best-looking attorney general in the country."

The outpouring of reactions was swift, with some critics accusing the president of sexism, and spurred an online conversation about whether mentioning a woman's appearance has any place in a professional setting.

PHOTO CREDIT: Kamala Harris, seen here before a cancelled hearing on April 16, 2012, is California's top law enforcement official. By Hector Amezcua for The Sacramento Bee.



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