President Obama personally comforted members of his White House staff after President-elect Trump pulled off a historic upset in the election last week, when many aides found themselves stunned by Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton.
In a post-election interview with the New Yorker, Obama discussed his belief that social media and sensationalized news had robbed political discourse of facts, a phenomenon to which he partially attributed the rise of Trump.
“An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll,” Obama said.
“And the capacity to disseminate misinformation, wild conspiracy theories, to paint the opposition in wildly negative light without any rebuttal — that has accelerated in ways that much more sharply polarize the electorate and make it very difficult to have a common conversation.”
Many Democrats have pointed to the proliferation of fake news as a factor in Clinton’s loss. Some have suggested Facebook’s refusal to police such posts allowed Trump supporters to form sharply and unfairly negative opinions of the Democratic nominee.
Obama said he brought staff members of all levels into the Oval Office on the morning of Nov. 9 to reassure them, some of whom had become emotional, that Trump’s victory was “not the apocalypse.”
In anticipating a Clinton win, aides had described a “sense of balloons and confetti waiting to be released,” the New Yorker’s David Remnick wrote.
Obama campaigned vigorously for his potential Democratic successor and was reportedly confident that, with his help, she would cruise to an easy victory over Trump.
“I’m like Mick Jagger,” he told Remnick on his way out of a North Carolina rally for Clinton. “I’m old, I’m gray, but people still turn out.”