WASHINGTON (AP) — In his first remarks about Donald Trump's status as the GOP's presumptive nominee, President Barack Obama on Friday urged the media to undertake tougher scrutiny of presidential candidates.
"We are in serious times and this is a really serious job," Obama said at the White House. "This is not entertainment; this is not a reality show."
Obama suggested that Trump's rise was enabled by a press that focuses on the frivolous.
"What I'm concerned about is the degree to which reporting and information starts emphasizing the spectacle and the circus," Obama said, simultaneously acknowledging the GOP nominee is a spectacle and placing partial blame on the media for creating him.
"That's not something we can afford. And the American people, they've got good judgment; they've got good instincts, as long as they get good information."
With his brief comments, tagged on the end of remarks about the economy, Obama inched closer to engagement in a race he has tried to keep at a safe distance. The president tipped his hand at his likely line of attack on the likely GOP nominee, a former reality TV star, and he delicately weighed in on a prolonged contest in his own party.
The White House has said Obama will be a regular presence on the campaign trail for the Democratic nominee once his party coalesces around a single candidate. Asked about the Democratic fight, Obama wasn't ready to directly urge Sen. Bernie Sanders to get out of the race, but he suggested the writing was on the wall.
"Let's let the process play itself out," Obama said, when asked whether it was time for Sanders to call it quits. Then he added: "I think everybody knows what that math is."
Sanders' rival, Hillary Clinton, has a lead of more than 300 pledged delegates and has received about 3 million more votes than Sanders during the primaries. Including superdelegates, Clinton is more than 90 percent of the way to clinching the nomination.
Still, the White House has been loath to appear to be meddling in the race, wary that it could anger Sanders' devoted followers and undermine Obama's ability to act as a uniting force.
In an interview with Pittsburgh TV station KDKA on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden warned that it would be a mistake not to take Trump seriously, pointing to the possibility that Trump could start to make himself seem more presidential.
Biden said Trump might manage "to bring significant people around him on domestic and foreign policy and to do the policy pieces where people think that this guy could actually be president."
Obama said it will be up to Republican voters — specifically Republican female voters — to decide "is that the guy I feel comfortable with in representing me and what I care about?"
Asked whether he had a reaction to Trump's recent outreach to Hispanics — a tweet that included a photo of the candidate eating a taco bowl — Obama dismissed the question.
"I have no thoughts on Mr. Trump's tweets. As a general rule, I don't pay attention to Mr. Trump's tweets," he said. "And I think that will be true for, I think, for the next six months. So, if you could just file that one."
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.