Even though Mr. Obama also praised the San Francisco Democrat for her brilliance, dedication and her toughness before he complimented her looks, his comments caused a national debate over whether saying anything about a woman's appearance has any place a professional setting.
"He fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
Mr. Obama and Harris do share a friendship. In statement Friday, Harris' office said:
"The Attorney General and the President have been friends for many years. They had a great conversation yesterday and she strongly supports him."
Rebecca Blanton heads the California Commission on the Status of Women. She's glad an uproar erupted because it shows progress from a time just 15 years ago when no one would have complained over such a comment.
"What ends up happening is the looks then take away from the accomplishment, and the idea is that you can be very accomplished but your looks make it that much better or that much worse. Men don't have to deal with that," she said.
Anne Staines is the CEO of her own social marketing agency, and she says she saw humor in the president's remarks because the pool of female attorneys general in the country is so small.
"I think it's unfortunate that he felt like he had to apologize," she said. "When men are afraid to say something to a woman about how she looks, I think that's too bad too," she said. "I'd just like us all to relax a bit about that."
In the past, Mr. Obama has also complimented men for their looks. He has referred to his housing secretary, his interior secretary and Navy secretary as good-looking guys.
In an exclusive Eyewitness News poll conducted by Survey USA, 73 percent of those polled in Los Angeles felt Mr. Obama should have apologized to Harris, while 20 percent said he should not have apologized.