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President Obama elaborated about Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s “tough guy” demeanor during an interview with NBC anchor Bob Costas that aired before the network’s U.S. telecast of the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony.
“We tend to have pretty blunt conversations,” said Obama about meetings with Putin, later adding: “He does have a public style where he likes to sit back and look a little bored during the course of joint interviews. I think that’s where some of these perceptions come up. My sense is that’s part of his shtick back home politically as wanting to look like the tough guy. U.S. politicians have a different style. We tend to smile once in a while.”
As aired on television, the interview sped through several Olympic-themed hot-button issues, including the message sent by adding gay athletes — such as former figure skater Brian Boitano and hockey star Caitlin Cahow — to the U.S. delegation and the cooperation between the two countries on security and intelligence.
“There is no doubt we wanted to make it very clear that we do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. And one of the wonderful things about the Olympics is that you are judged by your merit,” Obama told Costas. “How good you are regardless of where you come from, what you look like, who you love — and that, I think, is consistent with the spirit of the Olympics. It is certainly consistent with American values, and we want to make sure the people understand that.”
Another point of discussion during Costas’ chat was over safety concerns during the Games.
“I think the Russians have an enormous stake, obviously, in preventing any kind of terrorist act or violence at these venues. They have put a lot of resources into it. We’re in constant communications with them at the law enforcement level, at the military level, at the intelligence levels, and it’s not untypical of every Olympics, whether it’s in Canada or China or anyplace else,” Obama said. “We are consistently working with them to make sure that not only our athletes are safe, but everyone who’s attending these Games are safe.”
The interview with Costas is the third high-profile TV interview that the president has sat down for since he delivered the State of the Union address on Jan. 28. Obama previously chatted with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Jan. 30 and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly prior to the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.