By Jeff Mason
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - President Barack Obama took issue on Tuesday with the broadcasting of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's bloody demise, saying even those who had done "terrible things" deserved decorum in death.
Gaddafi was buried in a secret desert location on Tuesday, five days after he was captured, killed and put on grisly public display. The former leader was seen on video being mocked, beaten and abused before he died.
"That's not something that I think we should relish," Obama told Jay Leno on NBC's "Tonight Show," when asked his feelings about the footage being televised. "I think that there's a certain decorum with which you treat the dead even if it's somebody who has done terrible things."
Obama noted that his administration had not released a photograph of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's body after U.S. commandos killed him in Pakistan earlier this year.
The president said Gaddafi had missed a chance to bring democracy to his country.
"You never like to see anybody come to the kind of end that he did, but I think it obviously sends a strong message around the world to dictators that ... people long to be free," Obama said.
"He had an opportunity during the Arab Spring to finally let loose of his grip on power and to peacefully transition into democracy. We gave him ample opportunity, and he wouldn't do it."
Obama was in the middle of a western state tour with stops in Nevada, California and Colorado, mixing White House business with events for his 2012 re-election campaign.
Asked by Leno if he had watched the debates by his potential Republican rivals, Obama demurred.
"I'm going to wait until everybody is voted off the island," he joked, to applause. "Once they narrow it down to one or two, I'll start paying attention."
Eight serious candidates are running for the Republican presidential nomination. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and businessman Herman Cain are seen as frontrunners.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
On lighter issues, the president said he had quit smoking "definitively." He continues to work out regularly but said his wife, Michelle, outperformed him in the exercise department.
"It's embarrassing sometimes," he said, describing work-outs in a White House gym.
"She'll get up there a half an hour earlier than me. She will have already run 10 miles or something."
Their kids, Obama said, are not allowed to watch television during the week and their oldest daughter, Malia, who has a cell phone, is only allowed to use it on the weekends.
Obama also revealed a distaste for reality-based television programs, when Leno challenged him for not liking a popular show about a reality star family, the Kardashians.
"I am probably a little biased against reality TV partly because, you know, there's this program on C-SPAN called 'Congress,'" Obama deadpanned. The president is in a heated battle with lawmakers in Congress over his stalled jobs bill.
Speaking of battles, the president pretended to fear a new one looming over Halloween because of the first lady's habit of handing out fruit to children instead of candy.
"She's been giving, for the last few years, kids fruit and raisins in a bag," he said. "And I said, "The White House is going to get egged if this keeps up."
(Editing by Todd Eastham)