President Obama said he didn't pay much attention to the rally of hundreds of thousands led by Fox News host Glenn Beck on the National Mall this past weekend.
The president, who was on vacation through Sunday morning, said that he respected the rally headlined by Beck and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, but that he did not watch it.
"I have to say: I did not watch the rally," Obama said during an interview aired Sunday evening with NBC News. "I think that one of the wonderful things about this country is that at any given moment, any group of people can decide, 'We want our voices heard.' "
The rally on Saturday was ostensibly a call for renewed religiosity and an invocation of patriotism and support for troops. But the rally had heavy political undertones, if nothing else than for the presence of Beck and Palin, two longstanding critics of Obama with close ties to the Tea Party movement, a group of activists often opposed to the Democratic president's agenda.
Obama said that he was happy that Beck, who led the rally, was able to get so many citizens to exercise their constitutional rights, but said it was unsurprising that so many activists would experience anxiety, given the multitude of problems facing the country.
"I think that Mr. Beck and the rest of those folks were exercising their rights under our Constitution exactly as they should," he said. "I do think that it's important for us to recognize that right now the country's going through a very difficult time as a consequence of years of neglect in a whole range of areas."