Fox News host impressed with Obama

President grants interviews with five networks

NEW YORK -- President Barack Obama may have had a rocky relationship with Fox News Channel during the campaign. But the channel was right there among the other four when it came time for Tuesday's marathon of interviews.

Obama invited NBC's Brian Williams, CBS' Katie Couric, ABC's Charles Gibson, CNN's Anderson Cooper and Fox News Channel's Chris Wallace for back-to-back sitdowns in the Oval Office. The interviews, which were all done mid- to late afternoon, a few hours before the networks' evening newscasts, all got prominent play Tuesday night. But Wallace told The Hollywood Reporter after the interview that they all might not have gone exactly to the administration's script.

"He thought he was going to be talking about economic stimulus, but obviously the top question for everybody was about Tom Daschle," Wallace said. The Health and Human Services Secretary-designate pulled out hours before the interview because of a tax problem.

Wallace seemed impressed by Obama.

"He was very comfortable, very comfortable in the Oval Office," Wallace said. "He wears the mantle of the presidency lightly but seems very cognizant about how important and serious it was."

In the Fox interview, which took about 13 minutes, Obama spoke about Daschle, the economic stimulus package and his remarks about conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Obama disputed the wording of his remark to GOP leaders about Limbaugh. Wallace asked him about another comment: "Go ahead, feel free to whack me, I'll watch Fox News and feel bad about myself."

"That one I did say," Obama said but added that it was a joke.

"I think it's fair to say that I don't always get my most favorable coverage on Fox, but I think that's part of how democracy is supposed to work," Obama told Wallace. "You know, we're not supposed to all be in lockstep here, and you've always been very gracious to me."

Obama has not always been a fan of Fox News. Wallace, who also anchors "Fox News Sunday," ran an "Obama Watch" counting down the number of days it took the candidate to make good on a promise to Wallace to appear on the show. It ran to almost 800 days before Obama appeared last spring.

Fox News' turn came fifth out of five, a little after 5:30 p.m. EST Tuesday. Wallace couldn't resist tweaking Obama.

"I went into the Oval Office and said, 'Mr. President, Al-Arabiya just left, we're the only ones left,' " Wallace recalled Tuesday night. "He said, 'How long did it take you to think that one up?' "

Wallace also said that Obama spoke about the biggest surprise upon taking office was how every decision he makes as president affects people's lives.

"As soon as the interview ended, an aide came up and said, 'You're needed in the 'Situation Room,' " Wallace said.
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