President Barack Obama laughs during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, on Feb. 6, 2014.
Olivier Douliery/Pool/EPA

Obama jokes with, calls big critic Gohmert ‘unbelievably gracious’


President Obama and Rep. Louie Gohmert could hardly be further apart on the political spectrum, but the president put their differences aside Thursday morning to praise one of his critics at the National Prayer Breakfast. 

MSNBC Live, 2/6/14, 1:11 PM ET

Obama cracks up one of his biggest critics

President Obama drew big laughs from one of his chief critics, Rep. Louie Gohmert, at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.

Obama began his remarks by joking about Gohmert, one of the event’s organizers, and the behind-the-scenes disputes he said must have occurred between the conservative Texas Republican and his liberal California Democrat counterpart, Rep. Janice Hahn. 

“I, by the way, have always found Louie to be unbelievably gracious every time I’ve see him,” Obama said. 

“Now, I don’t watch TV,” he added, a line which immediately inspired gaffaws from Gohmert and many in the audience. The president then paused to laugh a little at the joke himself, touching Gohmert on the shoulder in a moment of levity, before praising him as “a good man and a great storyteller.”

Gohmert has been one of the president’s more vociferous critics since Obama moved into the White House in 2009, insinuating he was a “Chicago thug,” accusing him of keeping members of the Muslim Brotherhood in his administration, and flirting with the idea of impeaching him. 

He even once proposed legislation that would stop Obama from going on golf trips.

Just last month, Gohmert compared Obama to Santa Claus, joking about his decision to wear a Christmas-themed tie to the State of the Union. “Then I realized, we’re going to be listening to Santa Claus tonight promising whatever anybody wants they can have,” he said

But Gohmert’s language Thursday morning veered far from his usual critical rhetoric. “This is the time we come together in one heart, one accord,” he said of his Democratic colleagues. 

The president echoed that sentiment in his remarks as well. “Here we put aside labels of party and ideology, and recall what we are first: all children of a loving God, brothers and sisters called to make his work our own,” he said. 

PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, 2/6/14, 7:36 PM ET

A moment of unity

Rep. Louie Gohmert has been one of Pres. Obama’s harshest critics, and today Obama showed that he knows how to rise above the rhetoric.

Barack Obama and Louie Gohmert

Obama jokes with, calls big critic Gohmert 'unbelievably gracious'