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President Obama Criticizes Media Coverage of Election in Final Press Conference of 2016

Variety logo Variety 12/16/2016 Ted Johnson
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President Barack Obama, giving his final press conference of 2016, said that Hillary Clinton was not treated fairly in the coverage of her campaign, saying that the “coverage of her and the issues was troubling.”

Obama cited the media coverage of the WikiLeaks release of emails from her campaign chairman, John Podesta, and suggested that the leaks proved too tempting to ignore, even to the point of trivialities.

“You guys wrote about it every day. Every single leak, including John Podesta’s risotto recipe,” Obama said.

Intelligence officials have concluded that Russia was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee and Podesta. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the FBI backs the CIA’s view that Russia’s intention was to help Trump get elected.

Obama declined to say whether he thought that the release of the emails actually tipped the scales in favor of Trump, but he defended the way that the White House released information in advance of the vote.

“The truth about it is everybody had the information,” he said, noting that intelligence officials announced their findings about Russia’s involvement before the election. What they did not say, however, is that they also concluded that the intent of Putin’s regime was to hurt Clinton’s candidacy.

“I think we handled it the way it should have been handled,” he said.

He also suggested that, official announcement not withstanding, it was not difficult to determine a motive behind the hacks and email release.

“I am finding it a little curious that people are surprised this was disadvantaging Hillary Clinton because you guys wrote about it every day,” he said.

Obama said that actions will be taken against Russia, some of which will be made public.

Even though public action has not taken place yet, “That doesn’t mean we are not going to respond.”

Obama spent a good deal of his press conference lamenting the “dysfunctional” state of political discourse, including the hyper-partisanship that has seen many accept even fake news at face value as long as it validates their beliefs.

He criticized Republicans who accepted Trump’s praise of Russian president Vladimir Putin even though the party has traditionally supported sanctions because of Putin’s actions. His point was that partisanship had gotten to a point where people are willing to abandon principles if that means their preferred party is in power.

“If we want to reduce foreign influence on our elections, we better make sure that our political process, our political dialog, it stronger than it has been,” he said.

He cited a poll that showed that 37% of Republicans now favor Putin.

“Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave,” he said.

He also acknowledged that his own electoral coalition that was responsible for his victories in 2008 and 2012 “didn’t always turn out to be transferrable.” That was apparent with Clinton’s defeat and the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014, when Democrats suffered heavy losses.

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