President Obama scolded the media on Friday over its coverage of Donald Trump’s unorthodox campaign, entreating reporters to skip “the spectacle and the circus” of the 2016 race.
He urged reporters to instead dig into the candidates’ positions on the economy and the military. As if on cue, he was then asked about the bombastic entrepreneur’s tweet about a taco bowl.
“We are in serious times and this is a really serious job. This is not entertainment, this is not a reality show,” Obama admonished in the White House briefing room. “This is a contest for the presidency of the United States.”
The president went on to take a number of indirect shots at Trump. He said reporters need to apply “genuine scrutiny” about whether candidates offer up “completely implausible” policies or “take a position on international issues that could threaten war or has the potential of upending our critical relationships with other countries or would potentially break the financial system.”
“What I’m concerned about is the degree to which reporting and information starts emphasizing the spectacle and the circus. Because that’s not something we can afford,” he said.
Obama highlighted a debate inside the Republican Party about what it represents, reflecting unease in some parts of the GOP that “their standard bearer at the moment is Donald Trump.” He suggested that Republican women and fiscal hawks should be uncomfortable voting for the wealthy reality show star.
Another reporter later asked if Obama had seen Trump’s Cinco de Mayo tweet of himself eating a taco bowl. The tweet sparked a social media firestorm Thursday afternoon.
Obama sidestepped with evident annoyance.
“I have no thoughts on Mr. Trump’s tweets. As a general rule, I don’t pay attention to Mr. Trump’s tweets,” he replied. “And I think that will be true for, I think, for the next six months. So, if you could just file that one.”
The president also declined to weigh in substantively on whether Sen. Bernie Sanders should concede the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, who holds a wide lead. “Just let the process play out,” he said.
Obama said “everybody starts getting a little chippy” at this point in the primaries, but Democrats have “a pretty strong consensus” on core issues and only “disagreements about tactics.”
“In terms of the Democratic votes coming up, I’m going to let the voters cast their ballots, and not, you know, not try to meddle in the few primaries that are remaining,” he said. “We will know soon enough. It’s not going to be that much longer.”