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Even before Barack Obama's interview on the Tonight Show had aired, the White House was working to tamp down a hubbub over an off-hand joke the president had made.
When Obama told Jay Leno that he had recently bowled a 129 score, Leno replied dryly, "That's very good, Mr. President." Obama chuckled and said it's "like the Special Olympics or something."
Around 9:30PM ET (two hours before the show airs anywhere), White House spokesman Bill Burton made a brief statement to the reporters on Air Force One: "The president made an off-hand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics. He thinks the Special Olympics is a wonderful program that gives an opportunity for people with disabilities from around the world."
Transcript is below, here's video:
Q Now, are they going to put a basketball -- I imagine the bowling alley has been just burned and closed down.
THE PRESIDENT: No, no. I have been practicing all -- (laughter.)
Q Really? Really?
THE PRESIDENT: I bowled a 129. (Laughter and applause.)
Q No, that's very good. Yes. That's very good, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: It's like -- it was like Special Olympics, or something. (Laughter.)
Q No, that's very good.
THE PRESIDENT: No, listen, I'm making progress on the bowling, yes.