Obama 'runs wild' on reality TV show

Bear Grylls and President Obama witness climate change firsthand on Alaska's Exit Glacier.VIDEO: RUNNING WILD WITH BEAR GRYLLS
President Barack Obama (right) in an episode of the survivalist reality show, Running Wild With Bear Grylls. Mr Grylls cooked salmon, which a bear had already taken a bite out of, for Mr Obama while the President made s'mores - a popular campfire tre
President Barack Obama (right) in an episode of the survivalist reality show, Running Wild With Bear Grylls. Mr Grylls cooked salmon, which a bear had already taken a bite out of, for Mr Obama while the President made s'mores - a popular campfire treat - in return. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM DISCOVERY CHANNEL YOUTUBE CHANNEL
President Barack Obama (right) in an episode of the survivalist reality show, Running Wild With Bear Grylls. Mr Grylls cooked salmon, which a bear had already taken a bite out of, for Mr Obama while the President made s'mores - a popular campfire tre
Mr Obama in the White House, which has its set of protocols and can be a little restricting. For instance, he cannot eat or drink anything that has not been vetted. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM DISCOVERY CHANNEL YOUTUBE CHANNEL
Mr Obama in the White House, which has its set of protocols and can be a little restricting. For instance, he cannot eat or drink anything that has not been vetted. Mr Obama enjoys the Great Outdoors, like being on this Alaskan trip earlier this year
Mr Obama enjoys the Great Outdoors, like being on this Alaskan trip earlier this year where he met traditional fishermen on the shore of the Nushagak River in Dillingham.PHOTOS: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • He helped make tea from catkins, ate a salmon pre-chewed by a bear and discussed why people would drink their own urine.

On Thursday night, President Barack Obama appeared in an episode of the survivalist reality show Running Wild With Bear Grylls, part of an effort by the White House to highlight the perils of climate change.

While trekking in the Alaskan wild, the President and Mr Grylls, one of reality television's biggest stars, bemoaned the rapid retreat of a vast glacier.

But the episode also revealed Mr Obama as a leader made claustrophobic by tight security, a father who worries about appearing cool to his daughters, and a man who likes pushing through a forest and scrabbling over rocks to reach his campsite.

For the show's producers, Mr Obama presented a unique challenge. The White House has a set of ironclad protocols - the President, for instance, cannot eat or drink anything that has not been vetted.

SAFE, BUT A LITTLE CONFINING

I'm in what's called the bubble, and Secret Service makes sure that I'm always out of danger, which I very much appreciate, but can be a little confining.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, on how tight security measures can be a little too restricting for him at times

Nor could Mr Obama put himself in danger, as previous guests have by jumping out of a helicopter or rappelling down a mountainside.

The show agreed to all of the conditions, "but Bear pushed his luck in a couple of interesting ways", said Mr Paul Telegdy, the president of alternative and late-night programming for NBC Entertainment.

"You do not hand the President a piece of salmon that a bear has already taken a bite out of and expect him to eat it."

Bending the rules seemed to be much of the fun for Mr Obama. "I'm in what's called the bubble, and Secret Service makes sure that I'm always out of danger, which I very much appreciate, but can be a little confining," he said on the show, which was filmed in September.

In their discussions, Mr Grylls insisted to Mr Obama that, as President, he could do just about what- ever he wanted. "But he said it undermines other people's jobs, and at the end of the day isn't worth the battle," Mr Grylls said.

After Mr Grylls cooked the gnawed salmon for Mr Obama, the President made s'mores - a popular campfire treat consisting of a fire roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham crackers - for both of them. They talked about fatherhood and even prayed together.

The show was broadcast around the world, making its message about the urgency of climate change particularly well-timed after nearly 200 nations reached a landmark accord last week that will commit them to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'Obama 'runs wild' on reality TV show'. Print Edition | Subscribe