NBC Fawns Over 'White House Christmas,' But Ignores Cost of Obama Vacation to Taxpayers

Missing from NBC's rosy Wednesday interview of Michelle Obama is her family vacation's cost to taxpayers. Reports are that the taxpayer bill for the Hawaii vacation will top $4 million.

"Come Christmas the First Family, Bo included, will head some 5,000 miles away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," Today contributing correspondent Jenna Bush Hager said during NBC's "A White House Christmas" segment. "After an exciting but exhausting election season, the Obamas are happy to take this time to be together and enjoy the simple pleasures of family."

Hager asked the First Lady about the family's "talent show" and the Christmas meal, but made no mention of the Hawaii trip's cost to taxpayers.

The Hawaii Reporter estimated the cost of a 20 day round-trip vacation to be over $4 million. Travel alone would be over $3.6 million, with additional costs for security.

"While the President and his friends pay for their own rental homes, taxpayers pick up the cost of security and waterfront housing for the Secret Service, Navy Seals and Coast Guard as well as staff accommodations at a plush beachfront Waikiki hotel," the Reporter added.

Hager offered Obama quite a welcoming interview, though. "In addition to a role as hostess-in-chief, the First Lady is of course, mom-in-chief, and gets joy from making the holidays a special time for her daughters," she cooed.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on December 19 on Today at 8:10 a.m. EST, is as follows:

[8:10]

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And this morning on "Today Celebrates the Holidays," what Christmas is like in the White House. The NBC holiday special "A White House Christmas" takes a special look at how first families have celebrated over the years, and Today contributing correspondent Jenna Bush Hager has some firsthand experience on that. And good morning. Good to see you.
 
JENNA BUSH HAGER: Good morning. I have such great memories of spending Christmas at the White House with my parents and grandparents. But how do the current occupants celebrate the season? I sat down with First Lady Michelle Obama a few weeks ago to find out.

(Video Clip)

MICHELLE OBAMA, First Lady of the United States: Welcome back home.

HAGER: I know. It's nice to be here.

Mrs. Obama, when you think about walking through these halls during the holidays, what comes to mind?

OBAMA: It's so special. I was just talking to the girls the other day and this is the most special time to be in the White House. And one of the things I really love is that it's the one time of the year when we really open up the White House. We have thousands and thousands of visitors just streaming through every day. It's beautiful. Everything looks great. The smells are magnificent. So it's just special. Very special. And I feel very blessed to be able to be here during these times.

HAGER: What exactly is your role when it comes to the holidays every year?

OBAMA: I'm the hostess-in-chief. We host a number of events here for a whole range of people. One of the things that's really special for us is really being able to turn a spotlight onto our military families, which is something that we try to do every year through the holidays. I just try to remember that this is the time when the White House is truly the people's house.

HAGER: (voice-over) In addition to a role as hostess-in-chief, the First Lady is of course, mom-in-chief, and gets joy from making the holidays a special time for her daughters.

OBAMA: We have a teenager and a preteen. So there's a little less involvement now because their lives are so full. But they do enjoy every second of the holidays here.

HAGER: I think our favorite part was probably the cookies, which may say something to the way we were eating. But what about your girls? What's their favorite part of the holidays?

OBAMA: Oh gosh. I think they love the fact that the house is full of people and friends and music. You recall whenever there are receptions downstairs, you hear the music just bubbling up. It's as clear as day.

HAGER: (voice-over) It's also clear that this time of year is a chance for the real star of the Obama family to shine.

OBAMA: We always find a way to incorporate Bo into our Christmas themes.

HAGER: (on camera) It seems like Bo is the muse.

(Laughter)

OBAMA: He is.

HAGER: He's the decorating muse. What are the reactions you get from kids and from Bo himself?

OBAMA: Bo is the most popular member of our family. You do understand that. The President is clear on it. There are times when people recognize Bo and they don't even see him.

HAGER: (voice-over) Come Christmas the first family, Bo included, will head some 5,000 miles away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

(On camera) You spend the holidays in Hawaii.

OBAMA: Yeah. Every year we leave after all of the holiday festivities and when the girls are finished with school, and we go out there. That's a big tradition. That tends to be our gift to each other. The President and I, we don't exchange gifts. We say we're in Hawaii. Merry Christmas. But we also like to do crazy stuff. We do a talent show. Everyone has to participate. The moms and dads. Whether it's singing or reading a poem. The kids will construct a play of some sort.

HAGER: Do you know what you're doing this year on the talent show?

OBAMA: I don't.

HAGER: You've got to get on it.

OBAMA: – the pressure, but I wouldn't disclose it to the public. It would give me a great disadvantage.

HAGER: What about the meal? What is your traditional –  

OBAMA: It's very traditional. There's turkey. There's the sting beans and stuffing. A little Mac and cheese. This is the time when I throw "Let's Move" out the window for a moment and get that mac and cheese. Everybody deserves their mac and cheese.

HAGER: You eat and then you move.

OBAMA: Exactly.

HAGER: (voice-over) After an exciting but exhausting election season, the Obamas are happy to take this time to be together and enjoy the simple pleasures of family.

(On camera) After your busy fall, do you feel like this holiday especially, you can relax with each other and just kind of take a breath?

OBAMA: We're going to see. As you very well know, you know, this job never stops. I mean, it's a wonderful privilege. It's a blessing. We're so glad to be here for four more years. There's so much work to do but you don't have control over where the winds blow and we just take it as it comes. But no matter what happens, we'll be together. And that's what you realize living here is that in the end it's about family. It's about friendship. No matter what we're dealing with around the world, the holidays are a time for us to all just be together and be thankful.

(End Video Clip)

HAGER: And the First Lady also emphasized that the holidays are truly a time for giving back. It's a lesson that she's passed onto her daughters. They all do Toys for Tots together which is pretty sweet.

GUTHRIE: It's pretty cool to see the two of you sitting there talking about your experiences. People that don't know you, you don't sit around here and talk about your time at the White House all the time, so it's kind of rare for us to get to hear about it. But you've got some pretty good memories of Christmases at the White House.

HAGER: It's a magical place. And that's the reason why we put this special together. There's just a group of us that have had a privilege of living there and during the holidays it really is magical. I got to put the star on top of the national tree with my grandmother. She actually has the record. That was reading with my sweet grandpa and my cousins "The Night Before Christmas" which was a tradition of ours. I think I was a little older back then with my mom and dad. It's a magical place. And – decorating the tree.

GUTHRIE: Mugging for the cameras.

HAGER: Doesn't look like I was posing for that at all. What Mrs. Obama said about the music bubbling over and the smells, it's truly magical. And the people that put it together, it's unbelievable. The volunteers that come from all over the country. It's a special place.

GUTHRIE: The special you're having is really neat. You talk to another first daughters. We're going to hear from Amy Carter, we rarely heard from her and other first ladies. And I want to say I just want to compliment you and the First Lady for matching your outfits so well for the interview.

HAGER: We really did match.

GUTHRIE: It was an explosion of florals.

HAGER: When we walked in, we were both like, we match. She's so lovely, and it was really fun being back. I got to see all of these people that work there that I have known since I was in first grade. So that was probably truly the most special part.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014