September 16th, 2009
10:30 AM ET

Dear President Obama #240: A comment on Kanye...

Reporter's Note: Kanye West, the entertainer, behaved badly and not for the first time during an awards show. President Obama slapped him down like a quarter on the counter. Which is certainly worth a nickel’s worth in my daily letter to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I have to say that I was delighted to hear you light into Kanye West for his behavior during the Video Music Awards. I know that your choice of words is coming under some scrutiny, since you don’t hear Presidents say the word “jackass” every day. But what he did…snatching the microphone from the winner of an award to effectively declare that it should have gone to someone else…was inappropriate, unkind, and unprofessional.

I’m pretty big on forgiveness and I was happy enough to hear his apology afterward, but the truth is, he is a repeat offender when it comes to this kind of behavior; doing whatever he wants to grab a headline then suggesting later he should not be held responsible. He calls it keeping it real, and I call it the oldest trick in the book for people who are keeping it anything but real: A publicity stunt.

In any event, particular word choice aside, your response seemed right on the money; not so much as to give him too much extra coverage, but enough to make it clear that you disapprove.

Presidents can’t be the conscience of the whole nation, but now and then it helps when people in the bully pulpit push back against some of those who misuse similar fame to bad ends. I grow so weary of celebrities behaving badly, and then their fans, their marketers, and their agents making excuses. It is nice when a person in a position of some power suggests that perhaps the offender should at least be ashamed.

Not much of a note, I’m afraid, but I’m on the road and I’ve been terribly busy. Will try to write more tomorrow. Hope all is well, and for heavens sake please don’t call unless it is an emergency…my phone is ringing nonstop as it is.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. brenda hicks,nv

    mr president, make sure you check all you microphones before making any comments. smiles!! does the president have to comment on everything ? yes, kayne was out of line and his drinking probably enhanced this behavior. kayne should take time out to mature and focus on how to be a gentleman. talent and money is one thing, but RESPECT goes a long way in life. advise from old school.

    September 16, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  2. Martin, Kenya

    The Dictionary also define Jackass as a "stupid or foolish person". Kanye's action makes him total Jackass.

    September 16, 2009 at 11:00 pm |
  3. Jen, NYC

    What Kanye did was not unlike what Joe Wilson did. Both rudely stole the spotlight when someone else rightfully should have had it, and both are shameful examples of boorishness and disrespect. I thought the funniest was Wilson's wife saying "who was that lunatic who yelled?" (before she found out it was her husband).

    September 16, 2009 at 6:51 pm |
  4. Donna Wood Lil' Tennessee

    Wow, President Obama was right on! Bravo sir! Idid get a chamce to catch an interview Taylor Swift gave on The View. She reacted with more grace than I think I ever could have mustered under such circumstances. She has a lovely sense of humor as well. It was a really good interview.

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    September 16, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  5. Laura Pitt

    I think that the President is entitled to voice his opinion any way he sees fit. He was right in his criticism. Kanye is an embarrassment to his heritage. They would have thrown anyone else out on there behind, but they let Kanye stay. I hate when preferential treatment is shown to the rich and famous!!

    September 16, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  6. mary kay

    Dear sir
    i am 57 years old
    black woman and never responsed to comment made on t.v news shows. but after the disrespect shown to our President while giving his speak.
    what have happen to our country when different party felt that is ok.
    to totally disrespect our president on national tv. and after the speak I watched serveral shows and listen to their comment. i have never been active in government,but that's going to chance starting now I am going to do everything i can to keep the dems in office i was sick to my stomach how bad the other side acted.
    how come their was no black commentator on.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  7. Conserve' for USA

    Here is reverse racism ,but this is okay because it is black against white. Where is the out cry of racism in this story? What else can it be because you have black against white?

    September 16, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  8. Patricia

    I totally agree with the President and he shouldn't apologize for what he said because people like Kanye, who get the money and the fame and then don't know how to act, deserves to be called out. Hooray for my president and I hope he passes this healthcare plan!

    September 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm |
  9. Soledad Gomez

    We don't know how Kanye is feeling right now.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  10. Savannah Martens

    It's nice to finally hear the Presdent concur with the general white populace for once.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  11. Susan


    Kudos to President Obama for calling Kanye West a " jackass". He was rude to Taylor Swift. We have gotten to a point in our sociaty now where rudeness has been tolerated for far to long. We are seeing the results of this in our current lack of civility towards one another. It is only going to get worse, if we do nothing.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  12. Maryam Ajanaku

    why did Kanye's behavior cause such a roar? Is that not what we teach our children every day by exhibiting such behavior? when we hail Joe Wilson as a hero and he cannot even apologize to the House for disrespecting the congress.? We are bound to see such behavior as exhibited by Mr West everyday. There should be a boundary between "freedom " and "respect". Simple, Home training and civil ettiquete matter a lot in a civilized nation! Let us call spade a spade. West, Serena, Joe Wilson are all Jackasses of some sort! the difference however is that the first two jackasses apologized to the victims and their professions but the last one who should know better because of his age and position cannot but rather continue to raise huge money for being a jackass!!!

    September 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  13. Jo Ann Schloe

    I agree with the President. What a rotten thing to do to this lovely young woman. He needs help!

    September 16, 2009 at 12:52 pm |
  14. Sharon

    My goodness! The president didn't swear! He simply spoke a truth.

    Find something constructive to do, you that are soooo righteous!

    September 16, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  15. Jeanette

    Nothing that some of these so called "stars" do surprises me any more, they will do anything to get attention and I think thats what this is all about........ Publicity.......I hope he gets boycotted and noone goes to see him. He is a rude, crude jackass and the way he acted on the Leno show and his whole apology was just that, an act.

    I agree with the president, however, I don't think he needs to comment on everything that happens in this country. He should stay out of things like this and the other deal with the police officer.

    September 16, 2009 at 12:40 pm |
  16. Mel

    my jaw dropped too when i read the story about this online, but when i heard the audio, it was obvious the Pres was just being real...i said the same thing (more or less) to my friends the day before.

    granted, kanye is overdue for some counseling, but there's no excuse for doing what he did – physically walking up on stage during a live moment (taylor's moment) and taking the mic from her hand! it's one thing if he said a wisecrack comment to amber rose or even to the press after the show, but on stage?! that was certainly a jackass move.

    September 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  17. Tracy

    While I don't often agree with President Obama, this is one time that I definitely do. For those of you who are "appalled" that the president used the word "jackass", if this is his greatest offense, then the United States is in a lot better shape than I believe that it is.

    September 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  18. beleever

    Remember, a jackass is a dictionary term meaning 'male donkey' so it's not a so called swear word as just plain a** . I guees you can consider Kanye one of those too!

    September 16, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  19. pam j.

    very well put, Tom. just because he's the president, it doesn't exempt him from such words & calling it as it is. word he used is actually not as harsh as some people would use such as myself. let's not forget, Pres. Obama may have been caught on tape, but this does not mean other presidents have never said such things. our president has so many other challenges that are sooo much more important than this one, let's keep our eye on the ball!

    September 16, 2009 at 12:03 pm |
  20. Wrong, wrong, wrong...

    I think the President was out of line, he should have stayed out of it, and his language and conduct is appalling for the Commander in Chief!

    September 16, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  21. Taylor UNO

    I think that Kanye West was just speaking what everyone was thinking. He can't help himself. Although it was wrong because it was taylor wifts first VMA. He should have waited after the VMA or not have said anything at all because it caused conflict between Jay-Z and Beyonce. Beyonce is very humble and kind to bring Taylor on the stage.

    September 16, 2009 at 11:26 am |
  22. Beatrice McClearn

    When I heard that Obama used the word "Jackass" my mouth dropped in disbelief. It's NOT because I disapprove of what he said, but rather in my lifetime I've never seen a President who was so blunt and honest in his opinions. More and more he proves that he doesn't lie in bed with political hound dogs. Now if that were me, I may have used a different word like "sucka" or "screw up". But that's just because I don't curse. LOL

    At any rate, it is what it is. Life is too short to feel so strongly about something as small as his choice of language. The way I see it, I appreciate the fact that he brings it down to "real life" situations sometimes and all the while can continue to tackle the bigger issues. He said what he felt; and guess what...so do I.

    September 16, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  23. Susan Rea

    I still think he should be punished fined a hefty fee for air time what a million dollars be good not that u can put a price on her moment but that shouldnt of happened.

    September 16, 2009 at 10:28 am |
  24. Susie

    I think it boils down to the fact that people like Kanye West don't consider country music, music, and don't think it deserves a place in the VMA's, MTV's and such. Didn't a smilar thing happen to Gretchan Wilson when she won an award a few years ago.

    The disrespect in this country is making our grandparents sad.

    September 16, 2009 at 10:24 am |
  25. Jonita

    I Concur Mr.President.....

    September 16, 2009 at 10:24 am |
  26. Mike

    President Obama was just calling it the way we all saw it. Taylor's moment was ruined by somebody who should've stayed in his seat & kept his mouth shut. I probably would have said the very same words or worse. I suggest he get out being a personality and get a job flipping burgers somewhere

    September 16, 2009 at 10:06 am |
  27. Conserve' for USA

    How much are the 32 non-elected czars costing the taxpayers? If the CEO’s of companies are making millions, these United States CEO Czars must be making billions?

    September 16, 2009 at 10:00 am |
  28. Aj

    Kudos to Taylor Swift for Carrying herself with such grace and class after the unfortunate and disrespectful acts of Mr. West. While I accept apologies most often. I can't wrap myself around the idea of forgiving Kanye West for what he did. He knew what he was doing when he got up on stage an ripped the mic from her hand. There is no place for this type of conduct from a person in a position of fame. I believe there is no words or sorry that can undo what he did. I don't think he deserves his fame anymore.

    September 16, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  29. Joanne P.

    I agree with the President.

    September 16, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  30. Cassie

    I haven't heard anyone–extreme conservative or otherwise– call out the President on his comment. That says to me the country agrees on one thing and its not healthcare or Iraq but that Kanye West is a jackass. On that, I say kudos are due to West on bringing the nation together.

    By the way, I also find it funny that West didn't apologize to Swift until after Obama's comment was "leaked".

    September 16, 2009 at 9:52 am |
  31. Carie

    I couldn't agree more. The President's comment was a simple statement in truth.

    September 16, 2009 at 9:51 am |
  32. Conserve' for USA

    Why is it, if the health care reform is going to be funded largely with the savings from stopping Medicare and Medicaid fraud, why can’t it be done now? Why do we have to wait until a unfinished health care bill is signed before fraud can be taken care of? If this is a 900 billion dollar savings, why hasn’t it been done before? Doesn’t the government care if this fraud continues?

    September 16, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  33. Boomer in Mo

    Former President Jimmy Carter has hit the nail on the head and finally someone with national stature had the backbone to stand up and say it. Actually, George Will said something akin to this when he said last year then-candidate Obama's religion should not be an issue, because of the First Amendment, and he thought say he was a muslim was simply code for "he's black."

    September 16, 2009 at 9:44 am |
  34. Michael Leung

    If Obama really meant it, he would have kicked Kanye West out of the US forever and strip his citizenship.

    September 16, 2009 at 9:43 am |
  35. Agree

    Even the President is entitled to an opinion. I would find it very hypocritical for people to defend Rep. Joe Wilson, yet criticize the President. At least the President didn't do it in the middle of the VMAs.

    September 16, 2009 at 9:15 am |
  36. Diane

    Amen to everything Tom Foreman said !!!!!!!!
    At least Taylor Swift is seeing what becomes of celebrities that become famous and then they loose their morals and class to fame.
    I praise Taylor Swift ! Your fans love you more everyday.......

    September 16, 2009 at 9:12 am |