LOS ANGELES (AFP) — In his first appearance on a US late night talk show since his election as president, Barack Obama made a joke about his bowling prowess that fell flat, and may have insulted disabled people.
Asked by chat show king Jay Leno about the White House bowling alley -- after Obama famously flopped at the 10-pin sport during his presidential campaign last year -- the president said he had been practicing.
"I bowled a 129," he said to laughter from the "Tonight Show" audience.
"That's very good, Mr. President," Leno said sarcastically.
It's "like the Special Olympics or something," the president replied.
The White House was quick to downplay the joke, hoping the gaffe would not overshadow Obama's two-day trip to unemployment-blighted California where he made an unorthodox sales pitch for his sweeping recovery and budget plans.
"The president made an offhand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics," White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters aboard Air Force One on the flight back to Washington.
Obama "thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world," added Burton.
The president earlier was touting his plan to create jobs, end the economic crisis and spark sweeping reforms of education, healthcare and energy, also announced a 2.4 billion dollar effort to promote the development of plug-in hybrid cars.
Aides said before the taping that Obama would not necessarily try to be "funny" in the wisecracking "Tonight Show," which is more often the haunt of Hollywood royalty.
The president, they promised, would seek to address a much wider audience for his plans to rescue the crippled US economy, save the banking industry and restore long-term prosperity.
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