Obama jokes he no longer smokes ‘because I’m scared of my wife’


President Obama has been burned again by a hot microphone, with an offhand joke that he had to quit smoking “because I’m scared of my wife,” captured during the U.N. General Assembly.

“I hope you quit smoking,” Obama told U.N. Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai during a brief exchange Monday, with the president admitting that he still chews Nicorette gum.

“No, no, I haven’t had a cigarette in probably six years,” Obama said. “That’s because I’m scared of my wife.”


Scared or not, Obama’s timeline, which would place his last cigarette around 2007, fails to match up with previous statements from the White House that he had been smoking as recently as 2010.

And for the record, First Lady Michelle Obama has attributed her husband’s step away from smoking to their two daughters.

“I know that his ability to ultimately kick the habit was because of the girls, because they’re at the age now where you can’t hide,” Michelle said in a 2012 interview with iVillage. “I think that he didn’t want to look his girls in the eye and tell them that they shouldn’t do something that he was doing.”

But her disapproval of smoking is widely known, with CBS going so far as to hire a lip reader to report that her viral Inauguration Day eye roll toward House Speaker John A. Boehner was prompted by a remark about her not allowing the president to have a pre-luncheon cigarette.

This isn’t the first time that Obama has drawn attention after his comments were accidentally captured by a live mic.

A conversation with former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last year about the missile defense debate sparked controversy after Obama said, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” Obama, then in the middle of the presidential election, was predictably pounced upon by Republicans.

“What else is on Obama’s agenda after the election that he isn’t telling you?” a Republican National Committee online video asked.

And former presidential rival Mitt Romney went so far as to call the remark “an alarming and troubling development.”

But luckily, amid the ongoing debate over a possible government shutdown and nuclear negotiations with Iran, Obama’s quip will probably end up forgotten in a rhetorical ashtray rather than prompting a full-court partisan response.

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