April 17, 2013 6:50am PT by Erin Carlson
President Obama: White House Not Involved in Jay-Z and Beyonce Cuba Trip (Video)
Although Jay-Z suggests in his "Open Letter" diss track that President Obama approved the rap mogul's controversial trip to Cuba with Beyonce, Obama answers: "We've got better things to do."
“I wasn’t familiar that they were taking the trip," the president says in an interview with Today's Savannah Guthrie that aired Wednesday on the NBC morning show. "My understanding is I think they went through a group that organizes these educational trips down to Cuba. You know, this is not something the White House was involved with. We've got better things to do."
As previously reported, the Treasury Department had fully authorized Jay-Z and Beyonce's recent visit to the impoverished island as an educational and cultural exchange. As photos emerged of the celebrity power couple touring Havana, Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida issued stern letters of complaint. Responding to critics in a rap response posted online, Jay-Z rhymed: "Obama said, 'Chill you're going to get me impeached.' You don't need this s--t anyway, chill with me on the beach."
In his sitdown with Guthrie, taped before Monday's Boston Marathon bombings, Obama also addressed subjects he would most certainly categorize among his "better things to do": getting bipartisan support for gun control and immigration legislation. (On Wednesday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on a plan that expands background checks on firearms purchases.)
“I feel personally responsible the same way I hope every parent out there feels responsible for all our kids," Obama said of curbing gun violence following the Sandy Hook school shooting. "The key thing for me, is every once in a while we are confronted with an issue that should transcend politics."
On Tuesday, Obama met with Sens. Charles Schumer and John McCain to give his seal of approval on a bipartisan plan that would tighten the country's borders while easing the process for illegal immigrants to become citizens.
"I think the political engines of the party and blogs, et cetera, force people into taking more extreme positions publicly than they actually believe privately," he told Guthrie. "I’m willing to try anything. As I’ve said, I'm willing to wash folks' cars and walk their dogs if I can get some legislation passed."
See more of Obama's Today interview, where he discusses Hillary Clinton's possible presidential bid as well as his "teaching moment" over those off-the-cuff remarks on Kamala Harris' appearance, in the video below.