Obama says Trump is a “symptom of” and “accelerant to” misinformation

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Former President Obama criticized President Trump this week on the popular political podcast “Pod Save America,” calling the sitting president an “accelerant to” misinformation.

Host Tommy Vietor, who served as Mr. Obama’s National Security Council spokesman and special assistant, asked about Mr. Trump tweeting an allegation that the former president spied on Mr. Trump’s campaign. Mr. Obama said it is an example of bigger problems. 

“The allegations are so absurd that even Republican controlled committees looking into it have dismissed them. And, you know. Attorney General Barr has dismissed them,” Mr. Obama told Vietor. “But you know, this is an example, I think, of a larger problem. Well, two larger problems.”

He said “one of the central foundation stones of a democracy is the idea that you do not, you do not allow the politicization of the criminal justice system, the intelligence system, the military.”

Mr. Obama said these things should be kept out of politics right now because it’s “too dangerous.” He also said “you can’t have a democracy in which political opponents are subject to this kind of inflammatory language.”

“Now, he did the same thing with Hillary and the ‘lock her up’ theme,” Mr. Obama continued. “And so I’m not surprised by it, that it continues. I’m disappointed that Republicans who know better have not checked him on this.”

He went on to describe what he said is the second issue, “and that is the whole misinformation. Social media, media infrastructure, the conservative media infrastructure. We’ve had this conversation before. That is a problem that is going to outlast Trump. Trump is a symptom of it and an accelerant to it. But he did not create it.”

While misinformation was present during Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, “it has gotten turbocharged because of social media,” Mr. Obama said. “And because the head of our government, of our federal government, has resorted to it.”

“But, you know, when you look at insane conspiracy theories like QAnon seeping into the mainstream of the Republican Party, what that tells you is that there are no more guardrails within that media ecosystem,” he continued. “And I think one of the biggest challenges, all of us said this is not just a progressives versus right wing issue.”

“This is really a genuine American society issue, is how do we reestablish some baselines of truth?” he questioned. 

He said he doesn’t have a quick answer. “But I do think that that’s going to be a big challenge that we all have. And I’m concerned about it,” he said.

Social media companies have implemented new policies this year to try and prevent misinformation from spreading on their platforms. President Trump and his campaign have long been criticized for using social media to share misinformation, and content they shared has been subject to these new policies.

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