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White House calls Obama's 'Daily Show' interview a success

Despite some tough reviews of the president's appearance, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defends the one-on-one with Jon Stewart.

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

Reporting from Washington — The White House Thursday declared President Obama's interview with Jon Stewart "a success," though others have questioned whether the appearance may have backfired.

At his daily briefing, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs faced more questions about the president's "Daily Show" interview than any other topic. He defended the White House's decision to schedule it, repeating that it was a way of speaking directly to voters who may not watch traditional news outlets.

Gibbs also said they expected the tough line of questioning.

"I think Jon Stewart is about as good an interviewer as there is in the public domain," Gibbs said. "We didn't walk into that interview thinking we were going to asked a list of softball questions."

Stewart peppered Obama with questions about "timid" legislation he had passed, and whether he had failed to live up to the promise of change that was at the heart of his 2008 campaign.

Reviews of Obama's appearance have been tough. A Washington Post columnist declared that "the joke was on President Obama," an assessment eagerly circulated by Republican officials.

Gibbs at times seemed perplexed at the obsession with the subject in the briefing room, reminding reporters it was just "a comedy show."

"When the president gets to talk about what he's done, and sift through what people may or may not have heard, it's a positive benefit," he said. "I would think of it as a success."

Beyond the challenging questions Stewart had for the president, some were also struck by the fact that the host at one point referred to him as "dude." It came during an exchange when Obama said former economic adviser Larry Summers had done "a heck of a job," mirroring what former President Bush had once said of his then- FEMA director in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Gibbs said Obama took it in stride.

"If the president took offense at somebody calling him dude, given the names that are hurled around this town, I hazard to guess he'd rarely leave the top floor of the residence every day."

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