Then-Sen. Barack Obama poses with the cast of ABC's The View during a March 2008 taping in New York
Then-Sen. Barack Obama poses with the cast of ABC's The View during a March 2008 taping in New York Steve Fenn/ABC/AP
President Obama is making his debut on daytime talk TV this week, the first sitting U.S. president ever to make such an appearance, according to ABC.
And he's choosing to do it on The View, the morning show co-hosted by Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sherri Shepherd. They were quick to trumpet the news of Thursday's show — "He likes us, he really likes us," Behar gushed — and noted that Obama dropped by the set twice before he became president and that the first lady has also made an appearance.
So why this moment and this venue to make daytime television history?
It may well have something to do with soccer moms and the recent fiasco involving Shirley Sherrod, said David Zurawik, a media critic and commentator for The Baltimore Sun. While chatter on The View may run more toward Lindsay Lohan's mug shots or Madonna's influence on lingerie sales, the show sometimes touches on political topics and its core audience is the soccer-mom demographic so important to pollsters.
"It's a chance to address an audience that might be particularly offended by what happened with Sherrod," Zurawik said. Sherrod was forced to resign from the Department of Agriculture last week after a selectively edited Internet video clip wrongly implied that she had shown racial bias against a white farmer. She's since been asked to return, and Obama called her to personally express his regret over the rush to judgment.
"Here's a woman who was wronged by his administration," Zurawik said. "The View gives Obama an audience of women, although there are some men that watch."
White House spokesman Bill Burton told NPR that the president "likes to find opportunities where he is not just appearing on a traditional news program." He denied the appearance has anything to do with Sherrod.
But will the subject come up?
"You've seen the show," Burton said. "The women are very opinionated — they'll call the shots on what questions to ask."
The president's approval ratings of late aren't exactly at American Idol levels, and the Sherrod flap could make things worse. Sherrod appeared on The View last week to tell her side of the story.
Eric Deggans, TV and media critic at the St. Petersburg Times, said Obama's daytime turn also is a chance for him to bypass the Washington press corps and remind people that he's a regular guy.
"When you look at where Obama is now, it's not a good place. He has an array of media-savvy opponents, and he is struggling daily to get his message out," Deggans said.
"Obviously, he's not going to be grilled about the intricacies of financial reform," he noted. "But the hidden danger is that the hosts may find ways of asking a question that he's not expecting, and that could result in a gaffe."
It's happened before. Obama caught heat last year over a Special Olympics quip he made during a stint on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
When then-candidate Obama appeared on The View in 2008, Goldberg asked him to list the first three things he'd do as president. His answer: laying the groundwork to withdraw from Iraq, overhauling the health care system and addressing the energy crisis.
Obama can report tangible progress on at least two of those three issues, but given his sliding poll numbers, it's clear he has a lot of work to do. And as Zurawik said, "One appearance on daytime TV is not going to move the numbers that much."
Still, if he can win over Thursday's audience, it's a start.