Barack Obama said he did not take it personally when people said they hated him, but the thing he disliked most about being the US president was the constant, intense scrutiny.
“The people who dislike you don’t know you. The folks who hate you, they don’t know you,” Mr Obama said on Sunday night in an interview broadcast during Fox’s pre-game coverage of the widely-watched NFL football Super Bowl. “What they hate is whatever funhouse mirror image of you that’s out there. They don’t know you.”
Asked by Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly whether his critics annoyed him, Mr Obama said: “By the time you get here, you have to have had a pretty thick skin. If you didn’t, then you probably wouldn’t have gotten here.”
The 14-minute, live interview sought Mr Obama’s views on a range of issues including the unrest in Egypt and the ultimate fate of the new US health care law. O’Reilly also probed the president on lighter topics, including which team would win the NFL championship game and the worst part of his job.
Mr Obama lamented about “being in the bubble” and followed practically everywhere by staff, Secret Service agents and the media.
“It’s very hard to escape,” he said. “Every move you make … and over time, you know, what happens is that you feel like you’re not able to just have a spontaneous conversation with folks. And that’s a loss. That’s a big loss.”
O’Reilly asked Mr Obama three times whether the job had changed him before he acknowledged that it had.
Mr Obama said his hair was greyer and “I’m basically the same guy as when I came in” to office. O’Reilly then said that some of Mr Obama’s friends have said the president was not as light or spontaneous as he once was, to which Mr Obama agreed.
“I would say that’s probably true. There’s no doubt that the weight of this office has an impact,” he said.
Asked about the crisis in Egypt, Mr Obama said the country had been forever changed by the huge pro-democracy protests that began on January 25, but played down prospects that the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned political and religious group in Egypt with strains of anti-US ideology, would take a major role in any new government.