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Obama calls Kanye West a 'jackass.' But not officially


Oh, the perils of social media for politicians in modern life.

President Obama was giving an interview today to CNBC. An ABC reporter said he overheard the president call Kanye West a "jackass" for his dramatic interruption of the VMA's Sunday night to praise a Beyonce video that did not win.

Said ABC reporter immediately Twittered the comment to a million or so folks:

"Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a 'jackass' for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now THAT'S presidential."

Do you think that started bouncing around as an RT?

(UPDATE: Tuesday 1:14 p.m. TMZ has the actual audio right here. is running an online poll here that shows overwhelming on-the-record support for the president's remark.)

But there's a problem.

It seems that what got Twittered was during a so-called "off-the-record" portion of the interview. (Remember, Beyonce sang "At Last" at Obama's inaugural ball.) Such casual between-us-folks chatter is often a part of the technical set-up before an interview officially begins.

So, officially for the record, the president never really called the music star what he reportedly called him.

ABC issued an apology to both CNBC and the White House (and removed the Tweet, but not before folks got screen-grab images of it) and promised to ensure no repetition. How long do you think now before ABC gets an exclusive Obama interview?

Kanye West apologized Sunday night and again tonight during an interview on the premiere of the new "Jay Leno Show" on NBC.

This isn't the first time Obama's been burned by off-the-record that wasn't off-the record.

Remember during the Democratic presidential primary campaign when the then-Illinois senator complained to rich folks at a San Francisco fundraiser about bitter Pennsylvanians clinging to their guns and religion? But there was a Huffington Post reporter there with a tape recorder?

Hillary Clinton found time to mention that gaffe in her campaign and took the state. And Obama's going back there to visit tomorrow.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Comments () | Archives (82)

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Presidents should always be on the record.

I agree with the prez about this one. However he should know better than to think that anything he says is "off the record". Are you joking? I think Terry is the dummy here. Imagine thinking that the prez would be happy to read his "off the record" comment on twitter. Oh boy, heads might roll with this one. It seems lately that everybody has foot and mouth disease. It is actually becoming funny.

I think the clinger comment was fair game, but it's sad that they Tweeted the jackass comment.

The president is correct; Kanye West was a jackass. He just spoke a plain truth.

No story here. Move along.

How is this burning him? Frankly, I agree with him, and applaud him for calling it like he sees it.

So? Kanye West IS a jackass. I believe it shows Obama to once again be different than many other presidents.... he's a human being.

Kanye has opened his trap one too many times over trivial crap. It's like he's got the mentality of a 4th grader (and the talent of a mere "hanger on").

Obama can say whatever he wants in private. If people ease drop and spy on him to hear it.... so what? He can express his opinion too. And everytime I hear his opinion, it seems to match what most of America is thinking.

Mr. President: You lie! Calling Kanye West a 'jackass' is an insult to donkeys. But seriously, it's probably one of the few things that you, or any other politician, have said that most people agree with.

As a young African-American, I'm disgusted by Kanye's behavior. We need more role models like Obama. Not Kanye. I used to think Kanye should just shut up and rap. Now I just think he should shut up. Period.

I have to point the obvious.
Terry Moran broke the journalist code of ethics by posting a tweet of an 'off-the-record' comment. He has apologized for that incredibly unproffessional action. This kind of action threatens the trust between media and the White House.
Organizations such as the LA Times are *doing the exact same thing* by reporting about a comment that they are well aware was said off the record. I should expect an apology from the LA Times as well, since they are reporting about something they know was said off the record.
Remember when their were ethics in journalism.
Journalists are so short-sightedly chasing that next viral story, that they are ignoring the long-term impact this behaviour will have on their industry.
Shame on them.

How is it the Prez is getting burned? Is someone saying he's wrong?

Or are some calling this the equivalent of the Congress outburst? Let's see, interrupting the President, interrupting some singer. Yeah, I can see it.

We're all just playing the fool by giving Kanye so much attention. No doubt as he intended.

This is clearly a lie. I came out first and said it, "Obama is a racist." There is no way a full-blown racist would say this about one of "his kind." Don't be dupes of the MSM people. Wake up! Next thing they will tell you is that Obama has invited Swift to the White House. Do you really think this foreign born black racist would invite Taylor Swift to the White House?

Face facts. We all think Kanye is a jackass for what he did. It embarrasses us as a nation. The President, like the rest of us, should be allowed to think so and say so privately.

The operative word here is "privately". For Terry Moran to tweet about this is a lapse of journalistic ethics at the highest level, and he knows it.

President Obama did not say this while on-the-record. Hence, Terry violated both his own and his company's journalistic standards. He did, in fact, publish something that was very obviously meant to be off the record.

Terry should be fired, end of story. If he is not, his company should not be allowed higher-level access to this administration again.

Obama has two young daughters who probably watched the VMA show on Sunday. He is simply reiterating what is common knowledge. I hope Kanye learns from this and changes his ways. We all make mistakes, some as egregious as this, but what makes us better as a people is our ability to forgive.

Obviously, Terry Moran has no respect for his profession as a journalist nor does he have respect for the president. This whole Twittering thing has totally gotten out of control....maybe journalist cell phones should be banned before official interviews....

Posted by: Miss Lisa | September 14, 2009 at 08:18 PM

He has no respect for journalism... because he reported news? Why should journalists respect our president to the point where they hide damaging but true news?

Obama indeed called Kanye a jackass. This on the record talk isn't relevant. There's nothing presidential about that behavior, and it provides insight and is very newsworthy. Journalists should report this stuff, though it's not a high priority.

Ban cell phones from journalists? Because they don't shut up when you want them to? Probably not a very good idea. I am sure you're an Obama fan and would not feel the same way if it was Bush calling the dixie chicks a cuss word. Obama was even right in this case... Kanye is a jackass, though the real jackass is MTV, who orchestrated yet another attention grabbing story. Their awards show is meaningless. Fox's reality show is more relevant to the music world, and it's not very meaningful either.

Kanye West *is* a jackass. That Obama said so only improves my opinion of the commander in chief. Perhaps Mr West will do us all a favor and disappear into obscurity.

To the grumbling GOP contingent, if Bush (for his myriad of faults) had called Kanye a jackass I'd have agreed with him also. It doesn't matter who says it, a fact is a fact.

Seriously people, yes, the POTUS could have been a little more graceful in commenting, yes Kanye's behavior is a little immature and ridiculous and certainly the Tweet in question was in bad taste. Can we all be grown ups now and move on already???

How did a relationship ever get started where the president, while meeting with someone for an interview, could say all he wanted to say off the record and it not be reported while only "official" messages be released. Where is the freedom of press to report the whole story rather then the highly sensored fluff that comes from the president? Thanks Terry Moran for providing more light on the presidents lack of professionalism.

Kanye West IS a jackass.

Terry Moran misspells his name - it should be spelled M-o-r-o-n.

He should speak off the record more often.

Kayne West is partially right about Comrade Obama not caring about black people. One wonders if Kayne would feel this way if he hadn't just been dissed by Obama. Fact is Obama doesn't care about any people. His only care is about money and power.

Kanye West is lacking in "content of character!"

I have to say that this is the first comment the Pres has made that I fully agree with.........I hope mr west feels like an Ass... That coming from a Pres he promoted just because of the color if his skin.... Kanye your a Jack ass.... That's from me not the pres. A 25 year old bartender in Houston

I have to say that this is the first comment the Pres has made that I fully agree with.........I hope mr west feels like an Ass... That coming from a Pres he promoted just because of the color if his skin.... Kanye your a Jack ass.... That's from me not the pres. A 25 year old bartender in Houston

Once again another hater trying to make the man of the united states & african american president look bad... He can voice his opinion just like anyone else can but for u to say that and make it a big deal???? come on you look dumb to peoople who feel as i do & best believe its alot!!! Grow up... talk about what Bush did.....

I wish that President Obama would understand that (1) ANYTHING he says will be used to create a firestorm and (2) NEVER trust a "journalist". Common sense, self control, decency and ethics have been dead in America for some time now. The "media" is a friend to no one. Their mission to educate the public has been cast overboard. In today's world all main stream media has begun to follow the National Enquirier business model. In history class they called it "yellow journalism", some call it sensationalism. The media today could not care less about relevant information, but solely seeks ratings by inciting controversy and division in the society it is supposed to serve.

Kanye is pathological. You can see him trying to read a situation that he doesn't understand at all and trying to come up with a response that's just barely good enough. The more his handlers tell him he needs to apologize the more the true Kanye comes out and the worse he makes it. If Kanye's sole desire is self-promotion as most think, I say we give him what he wants; from now on any time you want to call some a 'jackass' (or worse)just call them a 'Kanye' instead. A hundred years from now people will still be calling jackasses 'Kanyes.' I'd rather my name be Mudd than Kanye.

Finally i agree with Obama after 8 months. Not only is Kanie a rude self-centered racist low-class looser but also he is really ugly and guetto looking. His career should end today for what he did. 9i was not listening to his music anyway)

Mr. President, I could not agree more.

It's Ironic. Obama became a jack ass by stating the words! But lets keep that off the record (remember, nothing I say really matters when its off the record.) He got his lick back by making everyone else on the twitter staff look the same. It seems that as of late, the world has been full of people doing butt hole things. Its a continuous cycle. I think Kayne West's comments were good, but Terry Moran and Obama should have been the ones to win the Award. The award for Best SNC........(Special Needs Comment)

I now love Obama for this. Kanye West is a jackass for what he did to Taylor. She deserved that award, and the respect of everyone there. Kanye didn't give her respect. He is a jackass.

Finally Obama and I agree on something.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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