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At a jobs summit at the White House on Dec. 3, President Barack Obama closed his remarks with criticism of the media and the political culture in Washington, D.C.
Obama was responding to comments from the chairman and CEO of Ethan Allen, a furniture company, who said that the bad economy has forced companies to reinvent themselves and compete globally.
Obama said the United States needs to rediscover "a sense of seriousness of purpose" when it comes to education, to government managing money properly and to executives having an obligation to workers.
"It is important to understand what's at stake and that we can't keep on playing games," Obama added. "I mentioned that I was in Asia on this trip, thinking about the economy. When I sat down for a round of interviews, not one of them asked me about Asia. Not one of them asked me about the economy. I was asked several times about, had I read Sarah Palin's book? True. But it's an indication of how -- how, you know, our political debate doesn't match up with what we need to do and where we need to go."
Obama's audience laughed when Obama mentioned Palin, the Republican Party's 2008 vice presidential nominee.
We decided to check the transcripts to see what Obama was asked on his trip. We wanted to see if it was true that he hadn't been asked any questions about the economy or Asia.
Obama gave a round of brief interviews while traveling in Asia, with most of his comments airing on American television Nov. 18. The coverage shows that four reporters got roughly 10 minutes each with the president.
We reviewed the transcripts and found several examples to contradict Obama's statement. On Asia, Chuck Todd of NBC News asked Obama about human rights in China, and Major Garrett of Fox News asked Obama about trade agreements with South Korea. Both Todd and Garrett asked about the administration's efforts to create jobs. Todd asked how the announced jobs summit would actually create jobs, and Garrett asked if job creation efforts would add to the deficit. Todd did not ask about Palin, though Garrett did.
The other interviews we found were with Ed Henry of CNN and Chip Reid of CBS News. Both of them also asked about Palin. Henry also asked a viewer question about what Obama was doing to hold banks accountable for lending to startups and refinancing mortgages.
Every interviewer spoke with Obama about making a decision about troop levels in Afghanistan, and most of them also asked about health reform. (ABC News did not join the round of interviews.)
Yes, three of four reporters asked Obama about Sarah Palin. A recent Washington Post poll showed Palin to be the top choice of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Palin garnered 17 percent, followed by Mike Huckabee with 10 percent and Mitt Romney with 9 percent. Her memoir was released the day before the interviews aired.
Obama said at the Dec. 3 jobs forum that when he was in Asia and granted interviews to reporters, "not one of them asked me about Asia. Not one of them asked me about the economy." That is clearly an exaggeration. We found that two reporters asked him about Asia, two reporters asked him about job creation, and another reporter asked him about mortgages and lending. He said "not one" did, implying that the interviews lacked substance. We rate his statement False.
Time magazine, Swampland blog,
What Barack Obama Really Thinks of the White House Press
, Dec. 6, 2009
The White House Web site, Remarks by the President and Q&A at the Closing Session of the Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth , Dec. 3, 2009
NBC News, Chuck Todd's Interview with Obama , Dec. 7, 2009
CBS News, Obama: I'd Fire Afghan Decision Leakers , Nov. 18, 2009
CNN.com, Obama: ' We've restored America's standing,' Nov. 18, 2009
Fox News, Major Garrett Interviews President Obama (Transcript), Nov. 18, 2009
PollingReport.com, Washington Post poll on the Republican presidential primar y, Nov. 19-23, 2009.
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