Obama talk radio prep: health care and 'cheese steak'

The White house considers President Obama’s live radio interview on Thursday with conservative talk show host Michael Smerconish to be a public relations twofer.

Obama’s 20-minute live interview with Smerconish, conducted in the Diplomatic Reception Room on the ground floor of the White House, is a first during his administration. The White House said the talk show host’s staff was solely responsible for selecting the callers who would ask the president questions. Most of the calls were expected to be about the health care reform plan the Obama administration is trying to sell.

“Obviously, a tremendous number of people get their news from radio and they are listening. Obviously, this is a very popular show,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Thursday morning.

The second element of the PR twofer is that “we can also have you guys cover him doing this popular show and make it what amounts to a town meeting that originates here and takes questions from people all over the country,” Gibbs said.

Asked whether the White House will invite other talk show hosts to broadcast from the White House, Gibbs said, “we will continue to do this and other things.”

He gave a facetious response when asked how the White House staff prepared the president for his interview with Smerconish. “He had a cheese steak for breakfast,” Gibbs quipped.

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