Obama Talks ‘Dangers of Cancel Culture’ in New Interview

Obama joined CNN's Anderson Cooper for an extended sit-down during which the former POTUS also discussed the fatal Capitol riot and much more.

Former POTUS Barack Obama says his daughters’ generation has “a pretty good sense” of how to navigate the process of holding people and companies accountable.

While in conversation with Anderson Cooper for a special CNN sit-down, Obama—who recently responded to UAP-related inquiries on Late Late Show—spoke on what he called “cancel culture,” both pointing to instances of what he described as “folks going overboard” and praising his daughters’ generation for their handling of key issues.

“What you and I might have tolerated as ‘Yeah, that’s sort of how things are,’ their attitude is, ‘Why? Let’s change it,’” Obama said, as seen in the video up top. “And that’s among not just my daughters but it’s among their white friends. There’s this sense of, well, of course it’s not acceptable for a criminal justice system to be tainted by racism. Of course you can’t discriminate against somebody because of their sexual orientation, right? Things they take for granted that I want them to take for granted.”

Speaking on what he currently finds most “interesting” about this generation, Obama continued:

“They’re also starting to be very strategic about how to engage the system and change it,” he said. “They’re not just interested in making noise, they’re interested in what works. And, at least in conversations with my daughter, I think that a lot of the dangers of cancel culture and we’re just gonna be condemning people all the time, at least among my daughters, they’ll acknowledge that sometimes among their peer group or college campuses you’ll see folks going overboard. But they have a pretty good sense of, ‘Look, we don’t expect everybody to be perfect. We don’t expect everybody to be politically correct all the time. But we are going to call out institutions or individuals if they are being cruel, if they’re discriminating against people. We do want to raise awareness.’”

Talking more broadly about how “a great source” of optimism for him is to see the messages of his political career living on in younger generations, Obama said he sees many who “still believe” in those ideas.

“Part of [my legacy] is the kids who were raised during the eight years I was president, there are a bunch of basic assumptions they make about what the country can and should be that I think are still sticking,” Obama said. “They still believe it and they’re willing to work for it.”

Elsewhere, Obama and Cooper went deep on the fatal Capitol riot, with Obama noting that he initially held out hope when exiting the White House that certain institutional elements would have been enough to prevent the Trump era from veering into certain territory:

View this video on YouTube


This isn’t the first time Obama has spoken publicly on “canceling,” a nuanced topic that often gets erroneously described under the “cancel culture” banner. Back in 2019, Obama criticized what he described as being “as judgmental as possible about other people” and also said young people needed to understand that “the world is messy.”

As for more recent Obama developments, the headlines were stacked up late last month thanks to widely circulated excerpts from Atlantic writer Edward-Isaac Dovere’s new book Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats’ Campaigns to Defeat Donald Trump. In it, Obama is alleged to have referred to Trump as—among other things—a “fucking lunatic.”

Latest in Life