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Obama to News Media in Final Press Conference: ‘America Needs You’

Variety logo Variety 1/18/2017 Ted Johnson
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President Obama, giving his final press conference with less than 48 hours left in his presidency, gave praise to reporters who have covered him and called on the news media to cover the next administration “with the same tenacity that you showed us.”

“You are not supposed to be sycophants, you are supposed to be skeptics,” Obama told reporters gathered in the White House briefing room.

He even made a reference to reports that President-elect Trump’s team is considering changes that may move briefings out of the West Wing to a larger space, perhaps outside of the White House building itself to the Old Executive Office Building, which is on the White House grounds.

“Having you in this building has made us work better,” Obama said.

He said that a free press “is part of how this grand experiment in self-government works…America needs you and democracy needs you.”

The Obamas will travel to Palm Springs for a vacation after Trump is sworn in on Friday. But they will return to Washington to live in the Kalorama neighborhood to live until their youngest daughter completes high school.

Obama said that in the next year he planned to spend time with “my girls,” do some writing and would “be quiet, a little bit” with myself after the past eight years. But he said that there were certain occasions that may “merit me speaking out.” He gave a few examples of instances where he would be watching if “core values” of the country were under attack, such as if efforts were made to round up DREAMers, or the children of undocumented immigrants; “systemic discrimination,” attacks on the press and dissent; and voting rights.

He also told of some of the advice he gave to Trump. “This is a job of such magnitude that you can’t do it by yourself.” He said that meant finding advisers who would give him accurate and unbiased information.

“Reality has a way of biting back if you are not paying attention,” he said.

Obama talked extensively about voting rights, and called fears of voting fraud “fake news.”

“We are the only country in the advanced world that makes it harder to vote rather than easier,” he said.

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