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Obama Talks Baltimore Riots in Final David Letterman Appearance, Says Poverty and Unemployment Fuels Anger Among African-Americans

Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama tapes an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York May 4, 2015. |

President Barack Obama made his final appearance on the "The Late Show" with David Letterman on Monday, mixing comedy with talk on some serious issues, such as the riots that broke out last week in Baltimore. Obama said that African-Americans are angry at poverty and unemployment, but added that most Americans want to work together to solve these issues.

"What you have are pockets of poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of education all across this country, and too often we ignore those pockets until something happens, and then we act surprised," Obama said of the broader problem behind the riots and burning of homes and businesses.

"There are cities across the country who work with police, clergy and others and say we want to get beyond the status quo, and I'm confident we can see improvement," he added.

Looting and riots took place in Baltimore last week following the death of 25-year-old African-American Freddie Gray, who died last month from a spinal injury while in the custody of police. Six officers have been charged in the ongoing investigation behind his death.

Obama admitted that there are a "handful of police who are not doing the right thing" in America, but said that the officers who have been charged deserve a fair trial.

"It is important that now that charges have been brought in Baltimore that we let the process play itself out," the president said. "Those officers have been charged and they deserve to be represented and to let the legal system work its way through. We don't have all the facts yet and that's going to be presented in a court of law."

Obama has been criticized in the wake of the Baltimore riots by a number of conservatives, such as GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, of inflaming racial tensions and dividing America.

"President Obama, when he was elected, he could have been a unifying leader," Cruz said last week. He said that instead, Obama "has made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions, that have divided us rather than bringing us tougher."

Obama and Letterman then tackled more light-hearted topics, with the Top 10 of the night featuring "Questions Dumb Guys Ask the President."

Letterman asked: "Is this the first country you have presidented?"

"It is," Obama replied. "I suspect, the first and the last. Unlike late-night talk show hosts, I am term-limited."

Obama praised Letterman's long-standing contribution to late-night comedy, with the host set to retire from the show on May 20 after 33 years.

"We've grown up with you. The country has," the president said. "After a tough day at the office or coming home from work, knowing you've been there to give us a little bit of joy, a little bit of laughter, it has meant so much. You're a part of all of us.

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