Accessibility links

Breaking News

YouTube Stars Interview Obama


As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:02:13 0:00

Watch video report from VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez.

In another effort to circumvent the mainstream media and reach a new, younger audience, President Barack Obama hosted several YouTube stars Thursday who peppered him with questions.

Obama began the interview session, which can be viewed on YouTube's web site, with Hank Green, who has nearly 2.5 million subscribers on his channel.

Green asked the president about topics including the use of predator drones and whether the U.S. should have sanctioned North Korea for the recent cyber-attacks on the United States when the country's long-suffering people will be affected negatively.

Star GloZell Green, who wears bright green lipstick, told Obama she is concerned about the gulf between African-American males and white police officers in the wake of last year's police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

They discussed the topic, Obama's hope that same-sex marriage will some day become legal across the United States and other social issues.

Bethany Mota, who boasts over 8 million subscribers to her channel which deals with makeup and fashion, asked the president about the skyrocking costs of higher education.

Mota also told Obama she had been cyberbullied and has been speaking out about the issue. The president responded that she has an even more powerful voice about this subject than even he would and encouraged her to continue.

The star, who made half a million dollars last year, according to Business Insider, also acknowledged to Obama that politics was never that interesting to her and asked him how younger people could get more excited about it.

The president explained how politics affects everything from climate change to fiscal spending and that qualities such as compromise and fairness are important in life as well as on the national level.

The move away from the mainstream media could open up a new and large audience for the White House, experts say.

“I think the people who are serious about the issues and the politics are going to wonder why [the White House] is going to these people with YouTube channels, said Janet Johnson, a researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas who focuses on social media. “Young people are getting their news from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They’re not getting it from the evening news.”

The three YouTubers are a colorful lot.

Some of GloZell Green's videos include eating a spoonful of cinnamon, a popular theme on YouTube, eating a hot pepper, and sitting in a bathtub full of milk and cereal. She has over three million subscribers to her YouTube channel and the video of her eating a hot pepper has garnered over 21 million views.

On her Twitter feed, the University of Florida graduate says “I'm Living my Imagination not my history.”

YouTube blogger Bethany Mota.
YouTube blogger Bethany Mota.

In her YouTube bio, Mota describes herself as “a teenage girl from California. I make videos about hair, makeup, fashion, DIY projects, and basically anything that I lov. [sic]”

According to Green's bio, he and his brother “are raising nerdy to the power of awesome.”

Green’s’ videos address a wide variety of topics, including how to apologize, flatulence and explaining international news topics.

GloZell Green has parlayed her channel into several television appearances and a book deal. Hank Green has raised over a million dollars for charities, including Save the Children and Partners in Health, according to National Public Radio (NPR).

This is not the first time the White House used alternatives to the mainstream media to get its messaging to a wide audience.

Last year, Obama appeared with comedian Zack Galifianakis in an online parody talk show called Between Two Ferns, to promote the Affordable Healthcare Act to a young demographic.

The video has been viewed 28 million times in less than a year, and according to NPR, the healthcare website saw a 40 percent spike in traffic the day after it appeared online.

And on Tuesday night, the White House broke from tradition and released to social media the text of President Obama’s State of the Union Speech – before the president took to the podium.

To join the conversation on Twitter, follow #YouTubeAsksObama.