ABC reporter asks if ‘Funny or Die’ video ‘damaged’ presidency


President Barack Obama’s appearance on Zach Galifianakis’ Funny or Die Web series “Between Two Ferns” is the viral video of the day, but while your friends on Facebook may be laughing, not everyone is into the joke. Especially those on the White House press beat.

During the daily briefing with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, ABC News’ Jim Avila questioned whether the appearance had damaged the “dignity” of the office of the president.

According to the political website Talking Points Memo, Avila asked, “How much discussion was there in the White House about the dignity of the office and whether or not, in order to reach these people who don’t watch us at 6:30, or who don’t watch this briefing.” He also wondered, “how much the dignity of the office might be lost? This is an interview like no other probably ever done by a president.”


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Obama appeared in the six-minute short in order to sell young viewers on the importance of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The deadline to sign up through the website is March 31.

The format of the series parodies a low-rent cable access talk show, with Galifianakis engaging in a series of interviews with celebrities that is by turns awkward and hostile. Other editions of the series have featured Sean Penn, Justin Bieber and Charlize Theron.

In the latest episode, shot in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, Galfianakis asked Obama questions such as “What should we do about North Ikea?” and “What is it like to be the last black president?”

Obama didn’t allow himself to get pummeled too much, however, coming back at Galifianakis with his own zingers, such as “If I ran [for president] a third time, it would sort of be like doing a third ‘Hangover’ movie. Didn’t really work out that well, did it.”

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Galifianakis allowed the president plenty of time to pitch young people on, and the video has been judged in many places as being a success. As of Tuesday afternoon, the video had drawn 7.1 million views.

During the briefing on Tuesday, Carney explained the reasoning for the presidnt’s participation in the video, but Avila asked again, “I understand the purpose, but was the presidency in any way damaged?”

Carney answered, “No. We obviously assess opportunities that we have and look at whether or not they’re going to be successful and wise, and I think we made the right call here.”


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