Opinion: Obama calls Kanye West a ‘jackass.’ But not officially


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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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