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Obama: Movies Won't Be the Same Without Roger Ebert

Barack Obama Roger Ebert - H 2013
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Barack Obama and Roger Ebert

Updated: Reacting to news of the film critic's death, the president said: "For a generation of Americans -- and especially Chicagoans -- Roger was the movies."

President Barack Obama issued a statement Thursday saying he was saddened to hear about the passing of fellow Chicagoan Roger Ebert.

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"For a generation of Americans -- and especially Chicagoans -- Roger was the movies," Obama said of the legendary critic. "When he didn't like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive -- capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical. Even amidst his own battles with cancer, Roger was as productive as he was resilient -- continuing to share his passion and perspective with the world. The movies won't be the same without Roger, and our thoughts and prayers are with Chaz and the rest of the Ebert family."

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Earlier, aboard Air Force One, reporters asked White House spokesman Jay Carney if Obama -- who spent the morning raising money in San Francisco for the Democrats --  had heard the news of Ebert's passing.

"He is aware of it," Carney said. "We talked about it on the helicopter ride that we most recently took. And as a Chicagoan, I think he feels the loss in a way that I think only Chicagoans can. Obviously, Roger Ebert became a national figure associated with the movies for Americans across the country. But it is a particularly keen loss for I think the city of Chicago."

Ebert, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer 11 years ago, told his co-workers at the Chicago Sun Times earlier this week that he was planning to reduce his work hours because the cancer had returned. He was 70.