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Obama tapes appearance on 'The View'

The president goes on 'The View' as a way to reach its female audience. It's part of the White House media strategy to reach key constituencies. But not all Democrats think it's a good idea.

July 29, 2010|By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington —

America Ferrera. 50 Cent. Barack Obama.

The guest list for ABC's "The View" this week includes the actress, the rapper and the leader of the free world.

Obama's visit to the program, taped Wednesday for airing Thursday, marks the first daytime television appearance by a sitting U.S. president.

Obama became the first president to appear on a late-night talk show last year when he chatted with "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno. He added a visit to David Letterman's "Late Show" in September. He also appeared twice on ESPN's flagship "SportsCenter" to unveil his NCAA basketball tournament brackets.

The White House has explained its media strategy by pointing to the hectic nature of Americans' lives and the new, more fragmented media culture.

"People have busy lives, and it's best to go where they are," Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

The appearance also lets the White House speak directly to a vital constituency — women.

"There is no such thing anymore as a truly mass audience. You collect a mass audience by pitching together a patchwork of niche audiences," said Robert Thompson, founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.

The chat-show circuit has become a requirement for high-level political candidates. Then-Sen. Obama joined the women of "The View" on their set in March 2008.

The White House strategy for reaching across market niches extends to its other major players.

First Lady Michelle Obama appeared on the Food Network's "Iron Chef America" to promote her healthy-eating initiative. Vice President Joe Biden, in addition to his own appearance on "The View" in April and on "The Tonight Show" this month, became the first sitting vice president to appear on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" in November.

The appearances certainly bring risks. The White House apologized after Obama made a glib comment on the "Tonight Show" that seemed to mock the Special Olympics. And even Democrats question Obama's latest appearance on a show where the subject matter is often far from presidential.

"I think the president should be accessible — should answer questions that aren't pre-screened — but I think there should be a little bit of dignity to the presidency," Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat, said this week on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

In the segment airing Thursday, Obama addressed questions about his wife and daughters, but sought to steer the conversation to subjects on the minds of Americans — chiefly, the economy, according to brief excerpts provided by ABC.

"You think about what the American people have gone through, losing jobs, seeing their home values go down, their 401(k)s declining," Obama said, recounting the letters from citizens he receives and reads each night. "So I don't spend a lot of time worrying about me. I spend a lot of time worrying about them."

Although Obama has done it more, other presidents have injected themselves into viewers' homes in primetime settings. President Bush made a cameo on the game show "Deal or No Deal" in 2008, offering encouragement to a contestant who had served multiple tours in Iraq.

"I'm thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings these days," Bush said at the time.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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