With the final days of his second term in office upon him, President Barack Obama watched as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was defeated by Donald Trump, a man Obama said was “unfit” to be president numerous times before the Election Day results rolled in.
President Obama sat down with Rolling Stone for an interview the day after the election to discuss what had taken place.
Among other things, the president mentioned Fox News by name as having a role in a Trump victory.
When asked if he thought America is “still a progressive country,” Obama answered that, while “nothing is determined,” he believes “the number of people who have a strong belief in a fair, just, equal, inclusive America is the majority and is growing.”
The president wrestled with the fact that “there [was] a cohort of working-class white voters that voted for [him] in sizable numbers” who “turned out in huge numbers for Trump.”
Obama said that Democrats’ “inability” and “failure” to reach those voters had to do with Fox News and a lacking in the grassroots work of Democrats.
“Part of it is Fox News in every bar and restaurant in big chunks of the country, but part of it is also Democrats not working at a grassroots level, being in there, showing up, making arguments,” he said.
“That part of the critique of the Democratic Party is accurate. We spend a lot of time focused on international policy and national policy and less time being on the ground. And when we’re on the ground, we do well,” he added.
The president also said social media and “a hundred different visions of the world from a hundred different outlets or a thousand different outlets” played a role in increasing partisan divisions.
“It’s making people exaggerate or say what’s most controversial or peddling in the most vicious of insults or lies, because that attracts eyeballs,” he said. “And if we are gonna solve that, it’s not going to be simply an issue of subsidizing or propping up traditional media; it’s going to be figuring out how do we organize in a virtual world the same way we organize in the physical world. We have to come up with new models.”
It’s not the first time President Obama has mentioned Fox News publicly.
At a speech he gave at Northwestern University in October of 2014, the president criticized Fox News for being wrong about Obamacare.
“There’s a reason fewer are running against Obamacare,” he said. “Because while good, affordable health care might still be a fanged threat to freedom on Fox News, it’s working pretty well in the real world.”
In an interview with Bill O’Reilly during halftime of the Super Bowl in 2014, Obama took issue with Fox News’ coverage of the IRS and Benghazi.
In 2010, also in an interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama was asked if Fox News was good for America and democracy.
Here was his reply:
[Laughs] Look, as president, I swore to uphold the Constitution, and part of that Constitution is a free press. We’ve got a tradition in this country of a press that oftentimes is opinionated. The golden age of an objective press was a pretty narrow span of time in our history. Before that, you had folks like Hearst who used their newspapers very intentionally to promote their viewpoints. I think Fox is part of that tradition — it is part of the tradition that has a very clear, undeniable point of view. It’s a point of view that I disagree with. It’s a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world. But as an economic enterprise, it’s been wildly successful. And I suspect that if you ask Mr. Murdoch what his number-one concern is, it’s that Fox is very successful.