Obama mocked Trump’s false election claims on Sunday, noting that he, too, lost an election and, while it “didn’t feel good,” he didn’t “make stuff up.”
“We used to have arguments about policy, but now people just make stuff up: ‘I didn’t lose,’” the former President said at the L’ATTITUDE Conference in San Diego, California, hinting that he was referring to Trump (and a sizeable amount of Republicans). “I lost an election — only one — it didn’t feel good, but I didn’t say ‘no.’”
Obama’s comments follow his discussion of misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, noting that “if you were getting information from your phone, you would think all kinds of stuff was happening,” including the baseless suspicion that microchips were being planted in people or that men would experience erectile dysfunction.
To emphasize his point, Obama pointed out NBA Hall of Famer Manu Ginóbili of the San Antonio Spurs in the San Diego audience and explained that when his team lost to the Miami Heat, the player did not claim that the opposing team did not make that shot or that the referees were cheating.
“Instead what he did was they went back, worked harder, and kicked some butt the next year,” Obama explained. “The point is, in sports, we don’t do that. And yet somehow in every other aspect of life, basic rules, basic truths, and facts are just contested and we just pretend we like whatever our opinions are, that must be true. Whatever we’re feeling suddenly becomes a fact.”
According to Obama, social media can amplify misinformation because members of the industry “[pump] out nonsense, and often times mean-spirited, nasty nonsense that has an agenda behind it,” which frequently goes unquestioned and is accepted as truth. The former President went on to say that misinformation undermines trust, which he refers to as the “glue that makes any society work, and certainly any democracy work.”
“I’m spending a lot of time right now trying to figure out how do we reexamine our media ecosystem,” he said. “So that basic fact-checking, basic honesty in reporting the distinction between facts and opinion, all that stuff is reflected in what we consume and we as consumers are going to have to be better,” he said, adding that the Latino and African American communities are being targeted for misinformation.
During the discussion, which took place on the conference’s final day, Obama also called for a “culture shift” within the Republican Party to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
“Unless we’re able to return to a more inclusive vision inside the Republican Party, it’s going to be hard to get a bill up,” he said. “It’s going to take a shift in mindset and culture shift inside the Republican Party,” he said, adding that the “formula is always going to be ‘let’s have a legal, smart, thoughtful way of strengthening our country with immigrants. who are eager to contribute to our country.’”