President Barack Obama defended the U.S. role in bringing down Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, rejecting assessments that the international coalition he helped assemble amounted to "leading from behind." "We lead from the front," he told late-night television host Jay Leno Tuesday.

Leno had kicked off the interview by asking Obama about Gadhafi's death last week: "Your take on this?"

"Well, this is somebody who, for 40 years, has terrorized his country and supported terrorism. And he had an opportunity during the Arab Spring to finally let loose of his grip on power and to peacefully transition into democracy," Obama said.

Pressed on whether he has been watching the Republican presidential hopefuls' debates, Obama began: "I'm going to wait until everybody is voted off the island before."

He was interrupted by wild applause from the studio audience in Burbank, Calif., approving of the reference to CBS' "Survivor" reality series.

"Once they narrow it down to one or two, I'll start paying attention," added Obama.

He is the only sitting president to appear on "The Tonight Show," a venue that his aides believe suits him well and gives him an opportunity to show a friendly face to the world.

When Leno pressed Obama on his insistence that his daughters not watch reality television's "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," Obama acknowledged a bias against reality television. "There's this program on C-SPAN called Congress," Obama said.

Asked about first lady Michelle Obama's anti-obesity and healthy eating campaign, the president said he warned his wife that if she insisted on giving fruit and raisins as treats on Halloween, trouble might follow.

"I told her the White House is going to get egged if this keeps up," he said, suggesting that she might want to add "a couple of Reese's Pieces or something."

With The Washington Post

Latest videos