He's been caught doing it at the APEC summit, on Air Force One, when he met with other heads of state and a function to mark the end of World War-II. But despite being the chief guest for the Republic Day, there was little sympathy from Indian Twitterati for US President Barack Obama when he was seen doing this:
As with almost everything, the reaction of Twitteratti was spontaneous and a mixture of shock, horror and jokes:
Report says Air Force One hadcarried 100 kgs of chew gum and Obama consumed half of that during 3 hours of R-Day celebrations
— Ra_Bies (@Ra_Bies) January 26, 2015
— Nidhi D. Bruce (@TypeWriterMom) January 26, 2015
Obama's gum has lost all sweetness. Yet he chews on. Can't even spit it out due to Swachh Bharat guy sitting next to him #HappyRepublicDay
— Angry Bard (@pranabgohain) January 26, 2015
Obama chewing gum. Jaitley eating peanuts. Pranab having hojmiguli, I suppose.
— Brown Sahiba (@Rajyasree) January 26, 2015
The question Arnab should be raising: how will Obama dispose that gum.
— Salil Deshpande (@sa_lil) January 26,
Now the US President is no stranger to gum with questions about the habit having being raised over his need to indulge in the habit even at seemingly casual functions like while walking around with Chinese premier Xi Jinping.
And like their Indian neighbours, the Chinese were just as unforgiving of the US president's habit with outrage on social media over the US president's habit.
But as this Washington Post analysis pointed out, the president's been a long time user of nicotine gum in his efforts to kick his smoking habit and has relied on gum to stay away from cigarettes while meeting with heads of state or summits.
And he's even gotten support for it, with one US commentator lauding him for kicking the butt and said it didn't really matter if it was seen as being offensive. Writing in the Washington Post, columnist EJ Dionne wrote:
I know the president has chewed Nicorette in the past, though perhaps he has gotten off the nicotine-laden stuff and now chews regular gum. One way or the other, the gum is helping keep the president away from cigarettes. Isn’t that something we should all applaud? Naturally, I applaud it, because that is my rationale for my Nicorette habit.
The US President has never attempted to defend his habit and despite the outrage and jokes by social media commentators, Obama is unlikely to give up the habit any time soon. In India it isn't unusual to see politicial leaders munching on something drawn from a pocket surreptitiously or openly at public gatherings, and even Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was seen munching thoughtfully at something while he watched the Republic Day parade on Monday.
As long as Obama didn't stick the gum under the chair or throw it away nearby, the Indian Prime Minister is unlikely to have had too much of a problem, the Swacch Bharat campaign notwithstanding, given the success this trip has been for him. For the US president, who's managed to get himself into controversies at other national public events in the past (remember the selfie at Mandela's memorial service), this doesn't seem to be one that will stick to him for too long.