When President Barack Obama appears on glorified kaffeeklatsch The View on Thursday, he—and by extension the entire federal government—will be in front of the largest audience than they've seen in months. Last year, The View's average viewership was a little over 4 million people. President Obama's latest weekly address on YouTube? Thirty-seven thousand views.
As difficult as it may be, it's important to acknowledge that this kitschy, daytime TV appearance could be an opportunity for President Obama to present and explain complex stances to people who don't normally seek out such knowledge, to people who might very well agree with him if they only knew what the heck he believed. With that in mind, what should he say?
First and foremost, writes Shani Hilton at TAPPED, the president needs to address the outright lie propagated last month by View co-host Sherri Shepherd and visiting comedian D.L. Hughley, who fell into a half-cocked conversation about AIDS and African Americans during a hot-topics segment:
Hughley said, "When you look at the prevalence of HIV in the African-American community, it's primarily young women getting it from men on the 'down low.'" Shepherd added: "[HIV/AIDS] is so big in the black community with women because they're having unprotected sex with men who have been having sex with … with men."
Though myriad evidence proves that "the down low" explanation is a fantastical, ridiculous myth, and despite the fact that GLAAD took out a full-page ad in Variety calling for a View retraction, neither Hughley nor Shepherd apologized for their alarmism, allowing millions of viewers to go on believing dangerously false information. On Thursday, Obama should chastise Shepherd, who often says dumb things but about much less important issues, and set the record straight once and for all (or until some other celebrity goes on TV to shoot off at the mouth).
Beyond that, because The View has never proven adept at multivalent, intricate policy discussions—nor should it—it would be best for the president to shy away from trying to explain the benefits of health care reform or financial regulation. Instead, how about focusing on something just as important and timely, but something the government can't ultimately regulate? Our nation's continuing problems with race.
Yes, he has given momentous speeches about race before, most famously while still a senator campaigning for president. And once in the Oval Office, Obama's administration has remained tough on the topic of race and racism, at least on the surface. Because although Eric Holder courageously and righteously called America a nation of "cowards" when it came to racial matters, in the ensuing months, our country's highest executives have done little to prove that they aren't cowards themselves.
Most recently we saw Obama, et al. hastily turn tail and run from a former ally because he was colored a racist by none other than Andrew Breitbart, a man whose stated goal is to destroy the ideological left. Once Breitbart's half-truths were discovered, of course, everyone apologized and went about their business. It's time again for Obama to stop going about his business.
If you're tired of hearing it, trust that everyone's tired of saying it. Nevertheless, like shaving, discussing race has unfortunately become a necessary constant in America. People, especially those who are largely uninterested in things like politics and policy and really big ideas (read: The View's fan base), find it easy to ignore our ethnic barriers, which are uncomfortable and sad. And unfortunately, all those barriers that need to metastasize are the public's ignorance.
At best, on The View Obama will be able to use the show to reach less than 5 percent of the nation. Still, like bigotry and lies, knowledge spreads—or at least we hope it does.