October 18th, 2011
03:58 PM ET
White House officials have largely kept their distance from the month-old Occupy Wall Street movement, to date offering only vague generalities when asked about the largely liberal-leaning groups that have increasingly caused a stir in lower Manhattan and other cities across the country.
But in an interview with ABC News Tuesday, Obama offered his most explicit approval of the movement so far, saying, “I understand the frustrations being expressed in those protests.”
The President went on to compare the Occupy protesters with those of the Tea Party – a comparison Tea Party organizers have vehemently rejected.
“In some ways, they’re not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party,” Obama told ABC News’ Jake Tapper. “Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren’t looking out for them.”
The movement has posed a challenge to the White House and the Obama campaign - much like the Tea Party has to the GOP - having the potential to reinvigorate a tepid Democratic base but with the risk of alienating a broader swath of Americans.
Asked about the movement Sunday on ABC’s This Week, top Obama campaign aide David Axelrod suggested the protesters’ message is one held by a majority of Americans.
“I don’t think any American is impressed when they see Governor Romney and all the Republican candidates say the first thing they’d do is roll back Wall Street reforms and go back to where we were before the crisis and let Wall Street write its own rules. That will be an issue in this campaign,” he said.