For the first time since the national news media has seized on renewed reports of Russian interference in the presidential election and for the last time in 2016, President Obama held a press conference. He addressed a range of issues, from the ongoing bloodshed and humanitarian disaster in Aleppo to the actions of FBI director James Comey in advance of the election to his response to the Russian hacking allegations. But he also spared a moment to criticize the election coverage, too. Obama suggested Hillary Clinton lost because of the media, at least in part, and the issues and controversies it focused on throughout her presidential run.
The moment came when Obama was asked whether he believed that hacks against the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta ultimately swung the outcome of the election. If, in other words ― assuming you trust the CIA's findings ― the Russian government may have successfully thrown the presidency to Trump, who is the most open, unabashedly pro-Russia (and more specifically, pro-Putin) president-elect in modern American memory.
Unsurprisingly, given Obama's typically cool demeanor and guarded approach, he didn't come anywhere close to validating that view. But he did suggest that Clinton was treated "unfairly" by the media, also saying he "couldn't be prouder" of her service to the United States.
I've said before, I couldn't be prouder of Secretary Clinton, her outstanding service. I think she's worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and I don't think she was treated fairly during the election. I think the coverage of her, and the issues, was troubling.
That's as far as he dove into the issue, opting not to dredge up any of his specific complaints about the media coverage Clinton received. It's not terribly hard to imagine what he might have said, were he unconstrained by the trappings of the presidency, however ― Democrats, progressives, and Clinton supporters have voice frequent complaints with the laser-like focus the media applied to the Clinton email server story, compared to the often scattershot, more skin-deep coverage of the seemingly endless litany of scandals that embroiled Trump.
The media's months-long focus on the email story, even throughout weeks and weeks when it was functionally dormant and resolved with nothing new to report, became hugely consequential when FBI director James Comey revitalized it just one week before Election Day. FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver, for one, believes Comey's intervention likely cost Clinton the presidency, a view that the candidate herself agrees with.
Whether Obama also believes this is not clear, and it surely won't be until he's out of office, and maybe ever ― there's no guarantee just how candid a post-presidency Obama will be about his view of this race. But at the very least, he quite plainly feels that his former secretary of state got a raw deal.