Obama says journalists partly to blame for tone of presidential race

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Obama says divisive election rhetoric "corrodes" America's democracy

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday laid some of the blame for the tone of the presidential campaign on political journalism that has been pinched by shrinking newsroom budgets and cheapened by a focus on retweets and likes on social media.

SEE ALSO: Clinton attacks 'extremist' Trump in scathing speech

In a speech to a journalism awards dinner, Obama urged journalists to ask tougher questions of the candidates vying to be president. He voiced dismay over the vulgar rhetoric, violence at rallies and unrealistic campaign pledges that have continually grabbed headlines, in a thinly veiled reference to Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

"The number one question I'm getting as I travel around the world or talk to world leaders right now is, 'What is happening in America?' about our politics," Obama said, describing international alarm over whether the United States will continue to function effectively.

"It's not because around the world people have not seen crazy politics. It is that they understand America is the place where you can't afford completely crazy politics," he said.

"When our elected officials and our political campaigns become entirely untethered to reason and facts and analysis, when it doesn't matter what's true and what's not, that makes it all but impossible for us to make good decisions on behalf of future generations," Obama said.

Related: See photos of Obama's 2016 State of the Union:

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Obama says journalists partly to blame for tone of presidential race
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: U.S. President Barack Obama waves after delivering the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. In his last State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016. AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. In his last State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality. Also pictured are Vice President Joe Biden (Top L) and U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (Top R). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter greets members of congress before US President Barack Obama arrives to deliver the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. In his last State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Vice President Joe Biden points at President Barack Obama during the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)
US President Barack Obama speaks during the State of the Union Address during a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 12, 2016. Barack Obama will give his final State of the Union address Tuesday, perhaps the last big opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election race. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016. AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: (L-R) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, first lady Michelle Obama, Naveed Shah of Springfield, VA., and wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden give applause as US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill January 12, 2016 in Washington, D.C. In his final State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality. (Photo by Evan Vucci - Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks during the State of the Union Address during a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 12, 2016. Barack Obama will give his final State of the Union address Tuesday, perhaps the last big opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election race. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (front) looks on as US Vice President Joe Biden gestures during the State of the Union Address in a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 12, 2016. Barack Obama will give his final State of the Union address Tuesday, perhaps the last big opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election race. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: US Secretary of State John Kerry (R), along with United States Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew (2nd R), U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (3rd R), and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (4th R) gives applause as US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. In his last State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Members of congress including Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (C) applause as US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. In his last State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., listen as President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama is applauded as he gives his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R) before delivering the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. In his last State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality. Also pictured are Vice President Joe Biden (L) and U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 12 - President Barack Obama speaks during his final State of the Union to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
US President Barack Obama (C) speaks during the State of the Union Address during a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 12, 2016. Barack Obama will give his final State of the Union address Tuesday, perhaps the last big opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election race. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama reads from the text of his State of the Union address before a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016. This is Obama's final State of the Union address, perhaps the last opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks with members of congress before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks during the State of the Union Address during a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 12, 2016. Barack Obama will give his final State of the Union address Tuesday, perhaps the last big opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election race. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Little Sisters of the Poor (C) arrive before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut (Center-L) and first lady Michelle Obama, talk before US President Barack Obama arrives before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks during the State of the Union Address during a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 12, 2016. Barack Obama will give his final State of the Union address Tuesday, perhaps the last big opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election race. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016. This is Obama's final State of the Union address, perhaps the last opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. In his last State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality. Also pictured are Vice President Joe Biden (L) and U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. In his last State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality. Also pictured are Vice President Joe Biden (L) and U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R), R-WI, and US Vice President Joe Biden (L) shake hands with US President Barack Obama before the State of the Union Address during a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 12, 2016. Barack Obama will give his final State of the Union address Tuesday, perhaps the last big opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election race. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama gestures as he arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, before giving his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama shakes hands with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as Vice President Joe Biden watches before the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: US Vice President Joe Biden gestures before the arrival of US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. In his last State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama hugs Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, before giving his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress . (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
US First Lady Michelle Obama (C) waves before the arrival of US President Barack Obama before the State of the Union Address during a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 12, 2016. Barack Obama will give his final State of the Union address, perhaps the last big opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election race. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, to give his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama is greeted on the House floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, after giving his final State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, from left, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor arrive before President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
First lady Michelle Obama, standing next to Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, waves on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, prior to the start of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Satya Nadella (C), CEO of Microsoft, gestures as he waits for US President Barack Obama to deliver the State of the Union at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016. Obama gives his final State of the Union address, perhaps the last opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Vice President Joe Biden talks with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin before President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (L) of Vermont arrives prior to US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016. This is Obama's final State of the Union address, perhaps the last opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., left, talks with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada looks up into the balcony before President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) arrives before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., talks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, prior to the start of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk in Kentucky, arrives before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union Address during a Joint Session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 12, 2016. Kim Davis, a born-again Christian, was jailed briefly in September 2015 for contempt of court after refusing to issue marriage licenses due to her opposition to gay marriage, which the Supreme Court legalized across the United States in June. Barack Obama will give his final State of the Union address, perhaps the last big opportunity of his presidency to sway a national audience and frame the 2016 election race. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arrives before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Ahmad Alkhalaf, 9, arrives before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), shakes hands with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) looks on before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) gives a thumbs up to members of congress before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Members of congress listen to US President Barack Obama deliver the State of the Union speech in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. In his last State of the Union, President Obama reflected on the past seven years in office and spoke on topics including climate change, gun control, immigration and income inequality. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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He said the media landscape has changed since his first presidential campaign in 2008, when "there was a price if you said one thing and then did something completely different.

"The question is, in the current media environment, is that still true? Does that still hold?" he said.

He said news organizations have a responsibility to dig deeper despite the faster pace of "this smartphone age" and steep financial pressures in the news business.

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Voters "would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can't keep," Obama said.

The New York Times earlier this month reported that Trump has so far earned almost $1.9 billion worth of media coverage, compared with $313 million for the next closest Republican challenger, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and $746 million for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

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