Obama’s gum chewing generates sticky gossip

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Jan 27, 2015 01:21 IST

As US President Barack Obama leaned right to listen to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the parade, he popped in a chewing gum — possibly Nicorette.

TV commentators missed it, or chose to make no big deal about it and droned on about the tanks. But some found it offensive. Others just decided to have some fun.

Obama, who has been described by his staff as a “reformed smoker”, is known to use nicotine gum. When he gets the urge, he pops one. As he did Sunday morning.

Columnist Shobhaa De noticed, and tweeted: “Barack bhai working his jaws overtime and chewing gum! At least it isn’t gutka. But seriously — gum during a formal parade?”

De’s tweet did get some traction, but most like filmmaker Shekhar Kapoor didn’t seem too bothered: “Glad to see @BarackObama is so human. Like most Americans, he chews gum. Anyone know what brand?”

Was that sarcasm? Even if it was, contrast these responses to the storm Obama chewing created in China in his 2014 visit — it was a national outrage.

As APEC leaders gathered to leave for dinner on November 11, Obama skipped the limousines of the host and hopped into one of the state departments. And, he was chewing gum. Double jeopardy.

“This is in the American manner and humour, but in traditional Chinese culture, it is immature and not serious behaviour!” said a blogger, cited by The Wall Street Journal then. Others called him “idler” and “rapper”.

Were Indians more indulgent? One tweeter called him a “teenager”. But most let it pass. The American press noticed too, by the way, and reported it.

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