Obama: Lincoln liked 'the occasional bawdy joke'
March 20th, 2014
02:15 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama: Lincoln liked 'the occasional bawdy joke'

(CNN) - President Barack Obama defended himself Thursday against critics who argued that his recent appearance on a Web-based comedy show undermined the dignity of his office and would never have been done by one of his most famous predecessors – Abraham Lincoln.

Obama said in an interview with ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd that Lincoln "loved telling the occasional bawdy joke and, you know, being out among regular folks."

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"One of the hardest things about being President is being in this bubble that is artificial and, unless you make a conscious effort, you start sounding like some Washington stiff," Obama said.

"You have to consciously try to get out of that if you want remind yourself of the wonderful people you're supposed to be serving who have a sense of humor and aren't thinking every day about position papers."

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Last week, conservative Fox News host Bill O’Reilly blasted Obama’s decision to appear on actor Zach Galifianakis’s Web-based comedy show “Between Two Ferns.”

“All I can tell you is Abe Lincoln would not have done it," O’Reilly declared.

Obama’s March 11 appearance on Galifianakis’s show was part of the administration's effort to encourage young people – the so-called “young invincible” demographic – to sign up for health insurance before Obamacare’s March 31 enrollment deadline.

The participation of young people is considered critical to balancing out costs in the exchanges.

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Obama's interview on Galifianakis' show, according to the White House, led to a surge of sign-up referrals to Healthcare.gov from the series' website, Funny Or Die.

The topic of his administration's get-covered campaign came after the first chunk of ESPN’s show, where Obama, an avid basketball fan, talked about the NCAA “March Madness” tournament.

CNN's Dana Davidsen and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

Filed under: Healthcare • President Obama
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. rs

    Aaaah. Republicans and humor. As long as we can see Richard M. Nixon on "Laugh-In", or Eisenhower on "Our Show of Shows", they ought to lay off criticizing anyone who does TV or movie spots- otherwise it might be "Bedtime for Bonzo".

    March 20, 2014 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    The critics are just upset because they fear the positive effect that it could have for Pres. Obama. Look ma, numbers are up.

    March 20, 2014 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  3. Amazing

    What does Bill O'Reilly know about dignity? I think it is positive for any politician to visit non-traditional venues to connect with people. The same thing was said years ago when President Clinton played sax on The Arsenio Hall Show.

    March 20, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. bill

    Lincoln served in the army, his son would have played football, his genius is unequaled in the WH or anyplace else. He believed in a man being a man and taking care of himself and his family and not being dependent upon government. He was a leader. He will be remember as one of the greatest presidents-besides these things they sure have a lot in common.

    March 20, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Bill O'Reilly is upset makes CNN headline news? Gotta love journalism in America.

    March 20, 2014 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  6. Tampa Tim

    Amazing – have you seen the Bill O'Reilly meltdown? Now there IQ an angry guy who knew how to use the "F" bomb?

    March 20, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  7. Dean

    There's a difference between telling jokes and being the butt of jokes.

    March 20, 2014 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  8. Tommyk

    Apparently the RIght expects Obama to act like Putin . . . a thug, despot, strut around and look like you want to take on anyone who disagrees with you. Wait . . . didn't we have that with Bush and Cheney. I remember something about them starting a war over someone having WMDs, except they didn't. Thank God we have a President who can relate to the average Joe and who asks questions (and can crack a joke) before he shoots!

    March 20, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  9. salty dog

    So he's seriously telling me that Lincoln would not gave been a guest on a internet show? These are the fools you rwnj listen to, explains alot.

    March 20, 2014 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC


    Aaaah. Republicans and humor. As long as we can see Richard M. Nixon on "Laugh-In", or Eisenhower on "Our Show of Shows", they ought to lay off criticizing anyone who does TV or movie spots- otherwise it might be "Bedtime for Bonzo".
    Most of the time, Republicans are laughed at, instead of laughed with. I cite Palin on SNL's "Weekend Update", and Mitt Romney reading Lederman's "Top Ten" back in 2012, as prime examples of them becoming the joke itself.

    March 20, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  11. Gunderson

    Lincoln liked a bawdy joke now and then. OK. For the biggest joke of the last 100 years he should visit the White House today.

    March 20, 2014 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  12. Wake up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Between the Grand Ole Obstructionists and their lapdogs the MSM, I think they've done a fine job of demeaning the office of the POTUS. I like having a President that's reasonable and approachable. But what I don't like is the opposing party having a 5 year public temper tantrum. I think it demeans the office of POTUS that a Presidents birthplace is questioned, his intelligence is questioned, and all the other nastiness that is said about him and his family.

    I also hate how a person cannot question the GOP without having their comments censored by a certain supposedly liberal site.

    CNN, you're losing me. You're not even pretending to be fair anymore. So sad.

    March 20, 2014 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  13. salty dog

    This coming to you from the "no spin zone", more like the no oxygen zone, another fair and balanced fox news(?) channel program, adored by the right. That station is in dire need of an enema.

    March 20, 2014 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  14. Silence DoGood

    Last week, conservative Fox News host Bill O’Reilly blasted Obama’s decision to appear on actor Zach Galifianakis’s Web-based comedy show “Between Two Ferns.”
    ....but there is nothing apparently wrong with O'Reilly conducting a conspiracy theory interview with Obama that was simply sad and mean spirited.

    March 20, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  15. Wake up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Mr. President please stop explaining yourself to these people. As far as they're concerned the office of POTUS was demeaned by you being elected in the first place. They hate you and NOTHING you do will ever change that fact. So keep your head up and know there are many that still support you and would give you another term if we could.

    In the words of Jay Z, brush the dirt off your shoulders.

    March 20, 2014 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  16. wendel

    repos have no sense of humor? Look at the clowns they keep running for president. ! I think they are a pretty funny group. It is just that the president does it so much better he is cool and clever and actually connects with people. Repos are just stupid funny like in idiots funny. They are so jealous that it makes them crazy. Bill O'Reilly is just one big fox news dork. And the faux news is sort of like comedy central. They really don't take themselves seriously do they?

    March 20, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  17. Rick McDaniel

    Lincoln was the worst U.S. President in History, as he was personally responsible for the deaths of 640,000 Americans..........until Obama. Now I think Obama has done so much financial damage to this country, he has surpassed Lincoln, as the worst president in history, and he certainly has surpassed Carter, as the previous worst spendthrift in history.

    March 20, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |