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President Barack Obama on Friday blasted conservative talk radio and partisan news organizations, which he characterized as “domestic propagandists,” for supposedly making voters vulnerable to fake news disseminated by foreign governments to sow chaos in the US political system.
“If fake news that is being released by some foreign government is almost identical to reports that are being issued through partisan news venues, then it’s not surprising that that foreign propaganda will have a greater effect,” Obama said at the annual end-of-the-year press conference in the White House.
The president said he did not think it was “far-fetched” to compare some of the so-called fake news items to “the other stuff that folks are hearing from domestic propagandists.”
Obama said that certain media outlets in the US had portrayed government as a place where “everybody is corrupt, and everybody is doing things for partisan reasons, and all of our institutions are full of benevolent actors.
“If that’s the story line that is being put out there by whatever party is out of power, then when a foreign government introduces that same argument, with facts that are made up, voters who have been listening to that stuff for years, who have been getting that stuff every day from talk radio or other venues, they are going to believe it,” the president said.
Obama has been critical of conservative talk radio and outlets like Fox News throughout his presidency. Online outlets like Breitbart and InfoWars pushed outlandish stories during the 2016 campaign, and claims on those websites were amplified by conservative talk radio.
Obama said that if “we want to really reduce foreign influence on our elections,” then the nation “better think about how to make sure that our political process, our political dialogue, is stronger than it’s been.”
The subject of fake news has been discussed in the media since President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton.
Some observers have suggested the prevalence of misleading or outright fake stories, which a flimsy Washington Post story said was in part aided by a “Russian propaganda effort,” could have swayed some people to vote for the Republican real-estate mogul.
Obama also scolded the media during the press conference for what he characterized as an “obsession” of covering leaked emails from top Democratic officials during the campaign.
Toward the end of the 2016 campaign, Obama raked members of the media over the coals for coverage of Trump, saying he was “frustrated with how this campaign is covered.”