Carney: Obama's Toughest Interview in 2012 Was With Comedian Jon Stewart

By Susan Jones | April 18, 2014 | 6:45 AM EDT

President Obama appears on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" on Oct. 18, 2012. (AP File Photo)

( - A month before the 2012 presidential election, President Obama went on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" to reach the young voters he needed to win a second term. And according to White House press secretary Jay Carney, that was the "probably the toughest interview" Obama had in 2012.

"I remember we had some discussion during 2012 about, well is it appropriate to -- for the president, the sitting president and candidate, to give interviews to Jon Stewart and others. And the answer was yes, again because young voters that we were trying to reach are more likely to watch 'The Daily Show' than some other news shows.

"But also, I think if you look back at 2012 and the series of interviews the sitting president of the United States gave, probably the toughest interview he had was with Jon Stewart. Probably the most substantive, challenging interview Barack Obama had in the election year was with the anchor of 'The Daily Show,'" Carney told CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett on Thursday. The two men were speaking at  Georgetown University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

"What does that tell you?" Garrett asked Carney.

"I think you guys should all examine it and write about it," Carney told Garrett. "I think that -- well, that's a broader discussion about, you know, where the media is -- you know, traditional media are today and -- but it's also, I think, a reflection of the fact that somebody like John Stewart is actually a very smart, sophisticated both consumer of and presenter of the news -- he just packages it in a way that draws eyeballs, and young eyeballs, which is, you know, what we were looking for."

In his Oct. 18, 2012 interview with President Obama, Jon Stewart's first question was, "How are you?"

He also joked about Obama's poor performance in his second debate with Mitt Romney, asking the president, "What happened?"

Stewart, clearly friendly to Obama, allowed the president to make an "affirmative case" for a second term; he asked Obama if there was a "a certain inevitability" to a slow economic recovery; he asked Obama why Republicans would be any less "obstinate" in his second term.

Following a commercial break, Stewart told Obama "the questions are going to get a little bit tougher." Then Stewart asked the president, "How many times a week does Biden show up in a wet bathing suit to a meeting?"

Here are the rest of Stewart's questions to the president:

--This is a little game I call "Still or No." So you're the president now. Before when you ran, you had certain things that you thought; I wonder if four years as president has in any way changed that. OK, first one is, we don't have to trade our values and ideals for our security. Do you still feel that way?

--Within that, as it ratchets down, I think people have been surprised to see the strength of the Bush-era warrantless wiretapping laws and those types of things not also be lessened. That the strictures that he put in place that people might have thought were government overreach and that, and that maybe they had a mind that you would perhaps tone down, you haven't.

--The second thing -- and this one I thought -- and in the debate, it was obviously a big moment. Governor Romney said, you never called what happened in Benghazi a terrorist attack; you said, check the transcripts. Candy Crowley said, he did call it that, but also said to the larger point there was confusion within the administration over what happened. Why? What was it that caused that confusion?

--The difficulty, the perceptions seem to be that state was on a different page than you, or that you had Susan Rice five days afterwards saying on shows, well, this video and could have been a part of that and then other people were coming out -- (Obama interrupted).

--Is part of the investigation helping the communication between these divisions of -- not just what happened in Benghazi, but what happened within? But I don't know. I would say even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as us all being on the same page.

--This is the last question. We have been speaking now for, I think, a good 12 to 14 minutes. And I am curious, how many emails during that time do you think your campaign has sent me?