— President Obama tried to escape the controversy over the rocky rollout of his health care program by heading to Hollywood on Tuesday and focusing on one of the United States’ most thriving industries: entertainment.
“Entertainment is one of America’s biggest exports,” Mr. Obama said during a rally here at a DreamWorks studio campus, adding that movies, television shows and music were “part of American diplomacy.”
“The gap between what we can do and what other countries can do is enormous,” he told the crowd of about 1,800 people, most of them DreamWorks employees.
And in an economy that is still struggling, he said, the entertainment industry is one of the “bright spots.”
But he did not ignore the debate over the health care program and the problems with the rollout of its website. The president noted that more than 350,000 people had signed up for insurance in California alone, and he urged Republicans nationwide to help improve the program rather than destroy it.
He told audiences this week in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles — small groups of tech-wealthy donors as well as crowds at recreation centers — that the health care effort reflects his most fundamental values.
“There are some things I really believe in,” Mr. Obama said. One of them, he said, is that “no matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love, you should be able to make it.”
Mr. Obama said it was an “idea that Hollywood has glorified and held up, but I actually think it’s true.”
The president’s efforts to highlight the entertainment industry’s economic contributions included a meeting with more than a dozen film industry leaders. He also talked with his former Senate colleague, Christopher J. Dodd, now the chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, and discussed piracy and intellectual property rights with executives from some of the major television networks and film studios.
Mr. Obama toured the DreamWorks Animation studio, accompanied by the chief executive, Jeffrey Katzenberg, a major Democratic donor. The president watched as the features “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and “Home” came together and got a taste of moviemaking himself: Studio engineers used a recording of his voice to help animate a purple alien.
“Happy Thanksgiving, everybody,” the alien said. “Welcome to the White House.”
“That’ll impress the girls,” Mr. Obama quipped.
Mr. Obama has deep ties to Mr. Katzenberg, one of the president’s biggest donors, although a White House spokesman said Mr. Katzenberg’s financial support had nothing to do with the president’s visit to DreamWorks.
“Contributing to the president’s campaign or being a political supporter of the president doesn’t guarantee a presidential visit, but it shouldn’t exclude you from one either,” Josh Earnest, a deputy White House press secretary, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Monday.
Mr. Obama began the day at the home of two other prominent donors, Marta Kauffman, one of the creators of “Friends,” and her husband, Michael Skloff. They hosted a fund-raising round-table with the president. The Democratic National Committee said about 30 people attended.
By Sarah Wheaton