Speaking to Peter Hamby of the Snapchat political show Good Luck America, which aired on Wednesday morning, Mr Obama said that people who use “snappy” slogans such as “defund the police” could make it harder for the US to implement police reform.
“You lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you're actually going to get the changes you want done,” the former president said according to a preview of the interview obtained by Axios.
“The key is deciding, do you want to actually get something done, or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?” Mr Obama added.
Progressive Democratic officials responded to Mr Obama’s comments, as Ms Omar tweeted that “defund the Police” is a “policy demand.”
“We lose people in the hands of police,” Ms Omar wrote. “It's not a slogan but a policy demand. And centering the demand for equitable investments and budgets for communities across the country gets us progress and safety.”
Cori Bush, who on 3 November became the first African American woman to be elected to Missouri’s House of Representatives, echoed Ms Omar and claimed the phrase is a “mandate.”
“With all due respect, Mr President—let's talk about losing people. We lost Michael Brown Jr. We lost Breonna Taylor. We're losing our loved ones to police violence,” Ms Bush tweeted.
She added: “It's not a slogan. It's a mandate for keeping our people alive. Defund the police.”
Mr Obama is not the first high-profile Democratic figure to criticise the term, as House majority whip James Clyburn told NBC News’ Meet the Press last month that he thinks the message hurt candidates’ vote share on 3 November’s election. There is currently no evidence to support this claim.
The message of “defund the police” became widely used during the summer, following the death of unarmed Black man George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.
Floyd’s death sparked calls to “defund the police” across the US, with protesters urging local government to reallocate funds for police departments to social services for minority communities, according to The Hill.
In a separate interview with CNN analyst April Ryan on Tuesday, to promote his new memoir A Promised Land, Mr Obama spoke about racial tensions in the US.
The former president told Ms Ryan that the Black community is looking for “good and fair policing,” but warned that President-elect Joe Biden will not be able fix racial tensions in the US during his time in office.
However, Mr Obama added that Mr Biden will “set a tone of inclusion” and “send a message that racism is not acceptable”.
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