NBC's Matt Lauer seemed shocked that Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, during his Super Bowl interview, actually asked Barack Obama about his opponents hating him, as the Today co-anchor, on Wednesday, in an exclusive interview with the First Lady questioned: "Do you think people hate your husband, even on the far right?" Michelle Obama initially deflected the question as she simply responded: "I'm sure that there are some people who don't like my husband" because "You're not gonna please everybody all the time." Lauer, however continued to press the issue as he asked: "There is obviously extreme criticism" and went on to wonder if it had changed the President as he questioned is he "the same guy today as he was two years ago?"
In an interview that touched on a wide range of topics from Egypt to the President's smoking habits and to the First Lady's anti-obesity campaign, Lauer did ask a tough question on the economy, even reading from a viewer's e-mail who asked Mrs. Obama for her advice for job seekers, as he pressed: "If there is someone out there...who is unemployed...do you expect that person to support your husband in 2012?"
The following are the relevant exchanges from the interview that aired on the February 9 Today show:
MATT LAUER: Before the Super Bowl your husband gave an interview to Bill O'Reilly and he was asked, during that interview, if it disturbed him that so many people hated him. And first of all, I think the word "hate" is a very powerful word. Do you think people hate your husband, even those on the far right?
MICHELLE OBAMA: I'm sure that there are some people who don't like my husband. Any President of the United States - this is a tough job. You're not gonna please everybody all the time. And that's not why you do this job. There are tough decisions that have to be made. So I'm sure that there are people who don't like my husband. There are people who have had strong feelings about every single president that's ever held the office.
LAUER: Taking "hate" out of it, there is obviously extreme criticism. And I think you made the comment that you don't think your husband has changed dramatically as a result of that criticism. Is he the same guy today that he was two years ago, as he entered the White House?
OBAMA: He is. He really is. He is, I think, one of his gifts is consistency. Emotionally, he doesn't get too high or too low unless it has to do with his family. I mean who he is as a president and who he is as a dad and a husband are very different things. He's got a thick skin. And he's focused on a set of goals. He wants to do the best job he can in office. And I think he's doing a great job. And he's, he's remained steady through it all. And I think that's a good thing.
LAUER: Tough challenges facing him.
LAUER: And the last time we spoke, he told me the economy, obviously, was in tough shape. Unemployment was a major, major concern. A lot of Republicans have criticized your husband saying that he hasn't focused enough on creating jobs. We asked our viewers to submit e-mail questions. Mrs. Obama, so many concerned the economy and jobs. If there is someone out there watching right now who is unemployed and is having a very difficult time finding a new job, do you expect that person to support your husband in 2012?
OBAMA: Yes, absolutely.
OBAMA: Because we are seeing some significant improvements in the economy. I mean, if we look at where we were two years ago when Barack took office, we are definitely moving in the right direction. It's a slow growth and that's something that Barack has said throughout. Change doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. But if you look at the accomplishments over this year, he has kept every single promise that he's made. It doesn't always feel good when you're down and out. But I think we're, we're on the right path.
LAUER: And so to Kitty from Ft. Worth, Texas, who wrote us and said, "What is your advice, Mrs. Obama, for someone who is out there looking for a job?" What would you say?
OBAMA: You know, I think one of the - this is why in the State of the Union Address, my husband focused on investment in the future, education, community colleges. Many people are gonna have to get retrained. Because the economic structure of this company, of this country, I'm sorry, has just changed significantly. Some jobs that were there are just gone. So my advice is to find the sectors that are growing. Find a way to retrain. Look at community colleges and use this time to, to, to recharge skills and, and, and keep growing. We are at the point in this country where all careers are, are, are fluid. I think the days of working in that company for 20 years are gone. And, and young people kind of know that already. They're coming in and they are thinking, "I'm here two years, but where is my next step? How do I get my next, you know, training certificate? How do I keep moving and growing?"
LAUER: Keep improving themselves.
OBAMA: And I think that's, that's how we have to focus.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here