Obama urges media to hold candidates accountable

Speaking to a roomful of journalists on Monday, President Obama says that our "democracy needs you more than ever."

By Bronte Price, PoliticKING

President Obama had some harsh words for the media on Monday, during a speech at an awards dinner for Syracuse University’s Toner prize for excellence in political reporting.

The president urged journalists to ask tougher questions of the presidential candidates. He expressed concern over the “vulgar rhetoric, violence at rallies and unrealistic campaign pledges” that have been widely covered in the news.

“The number one question I’m getting as I travel around the world or talk to world leaders right now is, what is happening in America about our politics?” Obama said. “It’s not because around the world people have not seen crazy politics. It is that they understand America is the place where you can’t afford completely crazy politics,” he added.

“When our elected officials and our political campaigns become entirely untethered to reason and facts and analysis, when it doesn’t matter what’s true and what’s not, that makes it all but impossible for us to make good decisions on behalf of future generations.”

Obama warned that the media landscape has changed since he ran for office in 2008. “There was a price if you said one thing and then did something completely different,” he said. “The question is, in the current media environment, is that still true? Does that still hold?”

The president pressed the issue, saying that news organizations have a responsibility to dig deeper regardless of the fast moving “smartphone age,” which is perpetuated by increasing financial pressures in the news business.

Despite competing interests, however, Obama insisted that the country needs journalists to step up to the plate now, more than ever. "Good reporters like the ones in this room all too frequently find yourselves caught between competing forces," Obama said. "I'm aware of that. You believe in the importance of a well-informed electorate. You've staked your careers on it. Our democracy needs you more than ever. You're under significant financial pressures, as well."

Although Obama did not mention any specific presidential candidates, he encouraged journalists to hold all politicians equally accountable. He said that voters “would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep.”

Here’s what Richard Dreyfuss has to say about some of the rhetoric emerging from this election cycle:

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