Add President Barack Obama to the lengthy list of public figures who have commented on the Oscars’ diversity issue.
Speaking to a group of reporters on Wednesday, Obama was asked about the Academy Awards, which for the second year in a row included an all-white slate of acting nominees. “I think when everybody’s story is told, then that makes for better art,” Obama said. “That makes for better entertainment. It makes everybody feel part of one American family. So I think, as a whole, the industry should do what every other industry should do, which is to look for talent, provide opportunity to everybody.”
Obama added that the debate surrounding the Oscars this year is “just an expression of this broader issue of: Are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?”
After the nominations were announced on Jan. 14, a number of high-profile men and women spoke out against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Spike Lee, an honorary Oscar winner last year, Jada Pinkett Smith and later her husband, Will Smith, all said they would not attend the ceremony in protest. Oscar winners George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon, and Lupita Nyong’o also made public their feelings on the Academy’s failure to cite a broad range of nominees. In the wake of the uproar, the AMPAS announced rule changes in an effort to diversify its ranks.
“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said last week after the announcement. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”