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Obama addresses White House scandals, fake news in leaked MIT speech

By Sara Shayanian
Obama addresses White House scandals, fake news in leaked MIT speech
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to a group of young leaders at the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago on April 24, 2017 in Chicago. Audio from a speech Obama gave at MIT last week has been leaked online. File Photo by John Gress/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Leaked audio from Barack Obama's off-the-record speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicates the former president addressed political polarization and made veiled comparisons between his administration and the Trump White House.

In the recording obtained and published online by the libertarian magazine Reason, Obama said he's concerned about the polarization of Americans who separate themselves into two "entirely different realities."

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Obama said Friday at MIT the Internet and social media have allowed people to believe in entirely different interpretations of facts.

"And this isn't just by the way Russian inspired bots and fake news," the former president said. "This is Fox News versus The New York Times editorial page. If you look at these different sources of information, they do not describe the same thing. In some cases, they don't even talk about the same thing. And so it is very difficult to figure out how democracy works over the long term in those circumstances."

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The former president noted that media giants such as Facebook and Google and the government shouldn't decide what viewpoints can be aired in public, but to instead ensure there are "basic rules of the road in place that create level playing fields."

Although the ex-president didn't mention President Donald Trump by name, Obama took a few vague jabs at the current White House.

"Generally speaking, you didn't hear about a lot of drama inside our White House," Obama said. "We didn't have a scandal that embarrassed us."

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The former president said that although his administration made some mistakes, no massive screw-ups or scandals dominated his time in the Oval Office.

"I know that seems like a low bar," Obama said, drawing laughs from the crowd. "I did have a strong bias toward people who just wanted to get things right, get things done, as opposed to people obsessed with, 'I want to be right, I want to be prominent, I want to have my name in the headlines.'"

In its first year, Trump's administration had the highest turnover rate of any presidency over the last 35 years. Those departures included communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who resigned after 10 days in the job, and national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

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The former president attributed the lack of scandal to the talent and diversity of his administration and stressed that making women feel safe and respected at work is key to any successful team.

"In today's culture, if you are not deliberately doing that, you are going to fall behind, and someone is going to beat you," he said.

Obama spoke of the hard work at the top levels of government -- saying its a misconception that people in the private sector work harder than federal workers.

"At least at the top levels of the federal government, people work harder than in the private sector," Obama said. "When I came out of the White House, everything looked like it was in slow motion. I felt like I was Neo in The Matrix. Our folks were putting in 80-hour work weeks and barely getting vacations and under unimaginable pressure."

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