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Jackass-gate: What Obama Actually Said About Kanye West

And now, thanks to TMZ, we finally know exactly in what context President Obama called hip-hop star Kanye West a "jackass" in banter with journalists that was intended to be off-the-record.

The gossip web site posted an audio clip of the exchange, taken from an unbroadcast feed prior to his interview Monday with CNBC's John Harwood, in which someone asks him what he thought about the watercooler topic du jour, West's now infamous confrontation with Taylor Swift on stage at the MTV awards Sunday.

"I thought that was really inappropriate. It's like, she's getting an award, why are you butting in?" Obama says in the audio clip. "I hear you. I agree with you. The young lady seems like a perfectly nice person. She's getting her award. What's he doing up there?"

Someone asks, "Why would he do that?"

Obama groans, comically: "He's a jackass!"

There's a nervous explosion of laughter from the others in the room, which Obama immediately reacts to: "Now, now, all this stuff... I'm assuming all this stuff -- come on guys, cut the president some slack. I've got a lot of other stuff on my plate."

Though he didn't complete the thought, it sounds as though POTUS is chiding them to keep the comments off the record. (Harwood told us Monday that the chit-chat before an interview is customarily considered off-the-record; because of that, he declined to comment on his exchange with the president.)

By The Reliable Source  |  September 15, 2009; 5:03 PM ET
Categories:  First Family , Update  
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President Obama stated the obvious. Why would anyone criticize his off-the-record remark? What he said is as true as if he had said my wife's name is Michelle. Rather than constantly nit-picking our Prez we ought to enjoy his truthfulness and erudite speaking ability. I used to cringe whenever Dubya spoke; he was an embarrassment to our country.

Posted by: jerpat | September 15, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Since when can the pres have a double standard. To call someone a jackass as president is inappropriate and Pres Bush would have been taken to the woodshed by the press.
To admonish a representative for saying you lie in a country that favors free speech.... come on people get real

Posted by: jdotbdot | September 15, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

jdotbot - read your post again. You are comparing 2 comments:
1) The president makes a comment about an entertainer. Some people call this comment inappropriate, but it is clearly speech.
2) A Congressman calls the president a liar. Some people call this comment inappropriate, but it is clearly speech.

You have to have a consistent standard here. If all comments are protected by free speech, you shouldn't condemn either one. If, instead, we are allowed to judge the appropriateness of the comments made by public officials, free speech isn't a defense for either one.

Posted by: Omnivore1 | September 15, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Jdotbdot,re: the Kanye comment, the President was speaking off-record, and in a very informal setting. He was not interrupting someone via inappropriate outburst in the middle of a speech addressing Congress.
I don't think Obama stood up in the middle of the VMA's and called Kanye West out as a jackass while West was giving a scheduled speech. I think "jackass" sums Kanye's behavior up quite nicely.
I wonder, did Bush or Cheney ever get caught using colorful language? I seem to remember a few F-bomb incidents.

Posted by: ach73 | September 15, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I don't agree with most of President Obamas policys but I found the comment refreshing. Lets not nit pick, the guy was a jack-ass and Joe Wilson was a jack-ass for showing disrespect for the president.

Posted by: saw1 | September 15, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

President Obama took the words right out of a lot of people's mouths. What a JA. What is there for discussion about this type of behavior?

Posted by: concerneddemo | September 15, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

President Obama took the words right out of a lot of people's mouths. What a JA. What is there for discussion about this type of behavior?

Posted by: concerneddemo | September 15, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

And I should care why?

Posted by: whocares666 | September 15, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

95% of the people in the country agree with the President on this one. Gosh, probably more than any other topic. But off-the-record should stay off-the-record. Otherwise the Pres just won't talk with the press except during formal press events.

Posted by: cyberfool | September 15, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm interested in the comment he made about her personality. So she seems like a "perfectly nice person." What if she had all the charm of Medusa? Would it still be OK to interrupt her? That's a loaded remark, and it would serve POTUS well to rethink the origins of it. An award is an award, and plenty of less-then-stellar souls have received them. Is it ok to steal their moment? Bottom line: Kanye West needs help, which has been demonstrated sufficiently over the years. He won't get it, though. Too many sycophants, even Jay Leno, who babysat him through his alleged "apology."

Posted by: sandradeerivers | September 15, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Roxanne and Amy: Enough with the freaking "-gate"! Sheesh!

Posted by: princeleo | September 15, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Obama: Please QUIT FRICKEN WEIGHIN' IN! This distraction will be harder to get caught up in, but why stoop? Kanye already admitted his mistake (in making that gal feel bad).

Posted by: JustinMcC | September 15, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

I am getting fed up with your mouth Mr. President! When are going to learn to keep it shut on certain subject? Yes Kenya was acting like a "jackass" but YOU, YOU did not have to make that comment. Don't YOU realize by now everything you say or do will be reported? Don't you know that, My God! You could have said: I do not have any comments on that subject, it has know bearing on the economy! But No, no, no, you just keep running and running like an old frig. The media do not like you, so keep to your main subjects and your foot out of your mouth PLEASE! Some in the Black community are waiting for an apology and an invite to the White House for Kenya, OK

Posted by: Chrisjj1948 | September 15, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Apparently you guys think a president should have absolutely zero personality and he should not have any fun, ever. It wasn't like he called Congress to condemn Kanye. It was just banter before the interview.

BTW, I did not vote for him and I disagree with him 90+ percent of the time, but I DEFINITELY agree: Kanye is a jackass.

Posted by: gojackets1 | September 15, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

This is beginning to be too much to comprehend.

The President in a clearly pseudo-private, off the cuff, moment made a remark that the majority of people will agree with. But you still get comments along the lines of "he shouldn't comment", "he needs to keep his opinion to himself", "he needs to examine the true meaning of his his language", "this is no different than Joe Wilson's outburst". What?!? Really?!? Can these people be serious?!? Are really this deep into obstructionism?!?

These folks are so biased it should be criminal! If President Obama goes outside and sneezes they'll accused him of trying to spread H1N1. These people are getting to the point they are their own worst enemies and eventually no one is going to take them seriously because of the ridiculous lengths they'll go to just to disagree or "bust" the president.

They are really an odd group of jokers and weirdos.

Posted by: senjin7 | September 15, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

jdotbdot obviously you forgot about the time Bush gave the camera the finger:

or the time he was drunk at a wedding:

Posted by: Matt8200 | September 15, 2009 11:39 PM | Report abuse

Obama should realize that for him there is no such thing as "Off the Record". Kanye acted boorishly and in poor taste and Obama's comment was correct but unnecessary for him to make. I wonder if all these persons who agree with the President this time (eg. Saw1)also agreed with him when he said that the police acted stupidly in arresting Prof. Gates because I think he was right then too. In that case it was appropriate and necessary for him to comment. For the record though, I do not think that was a case of racial profiling, it was just a case of the police resenting that a black man was not bowing and scraping to him and he was going to show this uppity nigger who was the boss.

Posted by: stew3 | September 16, 2009 12:08 AM | Report abuse

"To call someone a jackass as president is inappropriate and Pres Bush would have been taken to the woodshed by the press."

Like when he told Cheney (and a live mic) that a reporter was an "a**hole" at a campaign speech? Or maybe when he gave a blind reporter a hard time for not removing his sunglasses?

Short term memory loss is a serious problem in our political discourse of late.

Posted by: wizard2 | September 16, 2009 1:27 AM | Report abuse

In reading this article,and reflecting on this issue...allow me to make this observation. The mascot for the Democratic party is a " jack Ass." Yesssssssss! I said it a "JACK ASS." Is that what this is all about, a play on words. I don't remember anyone getting upset, when back in the 1800, its was accepted as being the term of choice for the Democrats to be known as " Jack Asses." Having said that,now allow me to say this". I don't agree with what Kayne West did, it was very inapproiate,and in poor taste, was it wrong for the Media to publish President's Barack Obama's statement....Yes it was off the record...he was having a private conversation...and somethings are not for publication!
I'm a registered Democrats, now does that mean I'm a jack Ass... Yesssssssssssss and I wear my Tagg well... I say it proudly, I'm a Registered Jack Ass.

Posted by: Dawson4070 | September 16, 2009 6:21 AM | Report abuse

The President needs to know when to make those kinds of comments; when he is home with his family, not at a press conference. He could have made a comment like "Kanye was wrong" and in regards to the Professor, the comment could have been "No comment". Does he not understand that these people are not his friends and will use anything to discredit him to the public. Stop with the comments!

Posted by: cynthialane1 | September 16, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

To Chrisjj who ever you are, sweetheart lets spell Kanye right before we "throw" salt on Obama. Yes he is the president but he is still a human being and aloud to speak free-ly, not to mention that was said to be off the record. Im sure you have had late night or casual conversation with someone and make statements that you wouldn't state to the public. Love Kanye but that was not the forst time he did something crazy like that on television, I think this time he sleeps on it a little more and has realized it's time to grow up and stay humble.

Posted by: sweetleo81885 | September 16, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

and yes I meant first correction on myself!!

Posted by: sweetleo81885 | September 16, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

West's behavior is certainly consistent with being a jackass. Maybe even a drunk jackass. While "off the record" comments shouldn't have been reported, I have no problem with this one.

Wilson's remarks took place in a setting where there are explicit rules of behavior (see "Robert's Rules of Order) and he clearly violated them. Whether he is correct or not doesn't change this. Congress has rules of decorum in order to prevent debates from turning into unruly town hall meetings so they can get things done. I have no problem with Wilson exercising his right to free speech either, but the floor of Congress is not the place to do it. Wilson should be rebuked, not for expressing his opinion but for violating rules of conduct while Congress is in session.

Posted by: JeffRandom | September 16, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

That's the only comment I've heard Obama make that I agree with 100%!

Posted by: Cindy88788 | September 16, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse


I agree with your analysis. You saved me a lot of time and effort lol!


P.S. This was really a no-brainer folks. Do we need to have a lesson on comparative analyses? :-(

Posted by: benjiedbii | September 16, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Come on, give BO a break. His comment about Kanye West being a jackass is the first thing he has gotten right in months. Now if he comes out and says his old organization ACORN is a criminal element then maybe there is hope for him after all.

Posted by: bbarbee2 | September 16, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Lets please not pillory the President for such a true and accurate comment. If we're going to criticize him, let it be for something he got wrong. He's only human, and he inherited an unholy mess; there will be plenty of opportunity to spit and fuss at him, if thats what one wants to do, for errors actually made on his watch, or for promises he can't keep.

And of course, even if he DOESN'T make any big-time blunders, ya'll can always go on making things up.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | September 16, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Big deal that Obama said KW is a jackass! What should have been said from the beginning is that KW's comment at the MTV awards was a RACIST comment, and nobody has even said anything about this. He is black, Beyonce is black, and he just couldnt stand it that Taylor Swift is a blue-eyed blonde girl, that was all, it was a racist comment! I wonder what would have happened if it had been the opposite way around, a black winner, and the other two people involved whites. It would have been the end of the world!!!!!

Posted by: bicinai | September 16, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

It won't take long for Washington to beat any fun out of Obama.

He's a smart guy and he's learning that journalists are not his friend.

Soon, he'll just walk into any interview situation & say: Are you set up? No? Okay. I'll just be sitting over here. Call me when you're ready.

Or, he'll learn the equivalent: No comment.

Mr. President, How's Bo?
Obama: No comment.

Mrs. Obama, How's Bo?
Mrs. O: No comment.

Sasha & Malia, How's Bo?
S & M: No comment.

Posted by: dadada | September 16, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Has anybody noticed that every single time Mr. Obama or his press secretary Robert Gibbs give a "speech" or a comment, they start out with an apology or excuse for something he said previously. It is a hallmark of a pathological liar to explain prior untrue statements that they have made, to make them APPEAR to be at least partially truthful. For what it is worth, I just wanted to point that out.

Posted by: ROYSTOLL2 | September 16, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

To interject a bit of levity in a lot of what appears to be feigned outrage, I grew up in one of the British colonies. As school children we learned that "jackass" is "a male donkey" or "a very stupid person"... Kanye west proved himself to be the latter and Obama was right on the ball!

Posted by: Lana4 | September 16, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

A majority of these negative comments in regards to the President are just completely absurd and have no significant basis. He made a comment off the record not knowing that it would be publicized to this extreme. I am sure most of us have done a few things (more than once) that we wish we could take back. People he is not GOD, he is the President. As for the comment that he starts every speech with an apology, I commend the fact that he is willing to come back and correct any information that may have been given in error. Why are we so willing to make someone out to be evil rather than see the good. This man is only trying to do what is best for this country. The fallout that he is getting is not worth the salary that he is being paid. Is it possible that he really cares? I really wish that everyone could focus on the real issues so that for once in one of our Presidents terms, that we resolve the issue of healthcare. As for the idea that Kanye's stunt was racist. HELLO...Idiot he has done this same thing to black and white a like. None of us like him!!!

Posted by: independentbabe69 | September 16, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Big deal that Obama said KW is a jackass! What should have been said or done was to take his jackass off the stage from the beginning is what I feel.Anywhere else they have body guard for the performers. This is going to scar her for life that all blacks are like that. Yes she is being polite she was raised to be.That is a big part of the worlds problem now no respect for others not even himself.You could see the fear in Taylor eyes like omg what do I do don't day anything is what she did a lady and walk off stage. This guy whatever his name is He has issues I went and viewed several videos where he did the same to other in the pasts. I feel our President said what we all feel. It was off record who has not said a thing or two and it get blow out of the water. And to say he needs to bring KW TO THE WHITE HOUSE THAT IS STUPID. KW owes all of us USA the nations that were watching as well a full apology not just Taylor Swift. Let the PRES alone he has a right to speak just as you and I do. What if he got on stage with Obama acting like a fool ????? come on world he needs to grow up.

Posted by: SEXYTHELMA | September 16, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Was he a Jack Ass or not? The answer is "Yes he was", both of them were jack asses whether it was said by the President or someone else. So what's the big hallowbolo about?

Posted by: par12 | September 16, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

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