The president, it seems, committed a minor gaffe during this week’s G-8 meetings in Northern Ireland. According to the Financial Times, the stumble came during a discussion of tax avoidance issues, when Barack Obama thrice interrupted the British chancellor of the exchequer in order to say he agreed with "Jeffrey."
The chancellor’s name is George Osborne.
Obama later apologized, saying, "I’m sorry, man. I must have confused you with my favorite R&B singer." The U.S. leader was referring to Jeffrey Osborne, the soulful crooner responsible for "On the Wings of Love."
But is Osborne really the favorite that Obama claims? Some investigative reporting has raised serious questions about where Osborne ranks in Obama’s hierarchy of musical preferences.
In multiple interviews about music, Obama has never once mentioned Osborne when asked about the songs he listens to, even when mentioning other R&B artists. Consider the following data points:
- In an interview with Cincinnati radio station WIZF, Obama says he listens to Stevie Wonder, James Brown, the Fugees, and even jazz artist Gil Scott-Heron, among others. But Osborne is never brought up.
- In an interview with Rolling Stone, he specifically discusses R&B — but again, makes no mention of Osborne (the late classical singer Maria Callas gets a shout out).
- Asked about his musical preferences by a middle school teacher while campaigning in 2007, Obama again mentions Stevie Wonder, and adds that he enjoys Earth, Wind & Fire — but no Osborne.
So — is Jeffrey Osborne really an artist so close to the president’s heart that he could accidentally blurt out his name when addressing another country’s chancellor of the exchequer? Or did Obama just forget poor George Osborne’s name?
We report, you decide.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.| The List |