Obama says Fox News viewers see a ‘different reality’

Former president says American divisions ‘seem to be deeper than just differences in policy’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
@GustafKilander
Monday 14 June 2021 22:18
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Former President Barack Obama has said that Fox News viewers see a “different reality” compared to readers of The New York Times.

In an interview with The 19th, Mr Obama spoke about the role that traditional and social media plays in furthering divisions and political polarisation in the US.

“I think a lot of that has to do with changes in how people get information,” Mr Obama told The 19th. “I’ve spoken about this before, but if you watch Fox News, you perceive a different reality than if you read The New York Times. And those differences have been amplified by social media, which allows people to live in bubbles with other people who think like them.”

He added that the country is “more divided than when I first ran for president in 2008”.

“America has been fractured by a combination of political, cultural, ideological and geographical divisions that seem to be deeper than just differences in policy,” he said.

Mr Obama said his former vice president, current President Joe Biden, is the right man to attempt to bridge that gap.

“I anyone can help bridge our divides, it’s Joe Biden,” Mr Obama said. “He’s spent his life bringing people together. And as president, he’s been focused on beating back the pandemic and rebuilding our economy — ideas that Americans from both parties can support.”

Mr Obama has hit out at Fox News in the past. In 2017, he said: “If I watch Fox News, I wouldn’t vote for me.”

“I would watch it and say who is that guy? This character Barack was portrayed in weird ways. It is all edited and shaped ... The point is, you get multiple realities,” he said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi in December 2017.

In an endorsement video for Mr Biden when he was running for president, Mr Obama said: “The other side has a massive war chest, the other side has a propaganda network with little regard for the truth.”

“Until we can agree on a common set of facts, until we can distinguish between what’s true and what’s false, then the marketplace of ideas won’t work,” Mr Obama told The 19th in the interview published on Monday. “Our democracy won’t work. So, as citizens, we need to push our institutions in the direction of addressing these challenges.”

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