Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama may not necessarily support lifestyle legislation — including state bans on low-slung, sagging trousers — but that doesn't mean he thinks dudes should be showing off their skivvies.
On Saturday, MTV News' own Sway led our exclusive interview with Obama in Henderson, Nevada, just days before Tuesday's historic election. Armed with questions submitted by MTV viewers, Sway discussed a number of critical topics with the presidential hopeful, including California's controversial Proposition 8 (the state ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage), education, gun violence and civil liberties. (Tune in to "Ask Obama" tonight when it airs on MTV at 7 p.m. ET, and on MTV Tr3s at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. ET.)
But he also answered a question from Eric, who lives in Huntington Beach, California, about lifestyle legislation like anti-sagging-pants ordinances, which have either been added to the books or are being considered in more than eight states (and has even inspired a song from rapper Plies). Eric wanted to know what Obama thinks of such legislation, and asked whether he feels those mandates intrude on civil liberties.
"Here's my attitude: I think passing a law about people wearing sagging pants is a waste of time," Obama replied. "We should be focused on creating jobs, improving our schools, getting health care, dealing with the war in Iraq. Any public official who is worrying about sagging pants probably needs to spend some time focusing on real problems out there.
"Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants. You're walking by your mother, your grandmother, and your underwear is showing. ... What's wrong with that? Come on. There are some issues that we face that you don't have to pass a law [against], but that doesn't mean folks can't have some sense and some respect for other people. And, you know, some people might not want to see your underwear — I'm one of them."
Obama also said that employers who ban sagging pants or similarly provocative fashions in the workplace are well within their rights.
"I think that it's one thing if an employer discriminates on the basis of gender or sexual orientation or, obviously, race," he said. But by the same token, "I think employers can set standards. You have [dread] 'locks," he continued, pointing to Sway's hair, "but you look clean, man. It's tight. My little girl has twists, Malia. I think, to me, it looks great. Obviously, I'd be upset if she were discriminated against on that basis. On the other hand, if you're working at a fancy store, and you show up to work in jeans and a shirt and you have a tattoo across your neck like Mike Tyson, for them to say, 'You know what, that's sort of not the image we're trying to project,' obviously that's within their rights as well. Any business has a right to say, 'This is the tone we want to set,' as long as they aren't discriminating on the basis of things people can't control."
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