Today Show Goes Gaga For Michelle Obama's Shorts

Are you tired of all the focus on what Michelle Obama wears?

Well, the good folks at the "Today" show certainly aren't, for they spent a lot of time this week discussing whether or not the First Lady was dressed appropriately when she got off Air Force One Sunday on her way to the Grand Canyon.

As the nation grapples with such important issues as the ongoing recession and healthcare reform, NBC's morning show actually spent TWO DAYS days talking about Michelle's shorts.

In case you missed it, here are some of the gushing highlights (videos embedded below the fold with full transcripts): 

  • LEE COWAN, NBC: The first lady surprised a lot of DCers with her bare arms, so you can imagine what happened when she stepped off Air Force One last weekend with bare legs.
  • Ms. MERLE GINSBERG (Editor-in-Chief, Fashionrules.com): I was surprised people were like, `Look at her legs, look at his.' It's like, look at how cool she is.
  • Ms. NIA MALIKA HENDERSON (Politico White House Reporter): I think people are beginning to see her as someone who's breaking a lot of barriers and boundaries in terms of fashion, in terms of what people think is appropriate for a first lady to wear.
  • COWAN: Critics point out recent first ladies were formal almost to a fault. Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, certainly Barbara Bush dressed the part. But the Obama family is one that prides itself in trying to be as regular as possible.
  • Ms. MARY TOMER (Mrs-O.org): I think women have really connected to Michelle Obama, recognizing that there are moments when she's dressed down, moments when she's dressed up, that she's playing different roles. That speaks to a lot of women.
  • MATT LAUER, CO-HOST: We want to know what you think about Michelle Obama wearing these shorts in public. Go on to our Web site, todayshow.com, to weigh in. We'll give the results of that informal poll tomorrow.

As promised, they did give the results Thursday:

ANN CURRY, CO-HOST: We received one of our largest responses ever. Nearly 300,000 of you voted in our poll, and here go the results. Seventeen percent said the shorts were inappropriate; 83 percent said...

AL ROKER, CO-HOST: Yeah!

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST: ...fine and dandy.

Ain't that sweet?!?

Not to be outdone, Time magazine got into the gushing and fawning over the First Lady's shorts with a piece sickeningly titled, "Michelle Obama: The Shorts Heard Round the World."

Oy.

Transcripts of the Wednesday and Thursday "Today" segments follow:

MATT LAUER, co-host:

Back at 8:21 with a question: Are shorts appropriate for the country's first lady? Here's NBC's Lee Cowan.

LEE COWAN reporting:

Perhaps there's a reason why there's no fashion district in the nation's capital. Washington seems suspect of anything too trendy or too revealing. The first lady surprised a lot of DCers with her bare arms, so you can imagine what happened when she stepped off Air Force One last weekend with bare legs.

Ms. MERLE GINSBERG (Editor-in-Chief, Fashionrules.com): I was surprised people were like, `Look at her legs, look at his.' It's like, look at how cool she is.

COWAN: While fashionistas the world over rave about how comfortable the first lady seems in her own skin, just how much skin she shows seems to strike some kind of puritanical nerve.

Ms. NIA MALIKA HENDERSON (Politico White House Reporter): I think people are beginning to see her as someone who's breaking a lot of barriers and boundaries in terms of fashion, in terms of what people think is appropriate for a first lady to wear.

COWAN: The Huffington Post even ran a poll. "Does Michelle Obama have the right to bare legs?" it asks, half tongue-in-cheek. More than one person responded "get a life."

Ms. GINSBERG: She's wearing mid-thigh shorts. You really can't say they're horribly inappropriate. They're not even sexy.

COWAN: Critics point out recent first ladies were formal almost to a fault. Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, certainly Barbara Bush dressed the part. But the Obama family is one that prides itself in trying to be as regular as possible. After all, this was a vacation to the Grand Canyon, not a grand ballroom.

Ms. HENDERSON: Most women look at those shorts and say that's what I would wear when I'm on vacation.

COWAN: A lot of Internet space this week has been taken up over a single pair of shorts that are at best only shortish. Is it really disrespect for the office or just a prudent clothing choice in 106-degree weather? Take that to the water cooler. Lee Cowan, NBC News, Los Angeles.

LAUER: Mary Tomer is the author of the upcoming book, "Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy," and the founder of Mrs-O.org. Robin Givhan is the fashion editor of The Washington Post.

Hi, ladies, good morning to you.

Ms. MARY TOMER (Mrs-O.org): Good morning.

Ms. ROBIN GIVHAN (The Washington Post): Hey, Matt.

LAUER: I don't normally start a segment by saying I think this is a bit crazy, but I think this is a bit crazy. I mean, this is a woman in 2009, she's on vacation and it's 145 degrees. I think there's nothing wrong with it. What do you think?

Ms. TOMER: Exactly. I mean, I think the question is what could be more appropriate than shorts for hiking the Grand Canyon with your family in mid-August? I don't think a skirt--suit's going to cut it.

LAUER: And yet I want to be respectful of all opinions. You're not quite so sure about this, are you?

Ms. GIVHAN: Well, I am ambivalent about it only because the photograph that to me is most resonant is the one in which she's stepping off of Air Force One. And that's a very formal photograph. That's the photograph that the press corps gathers around to take. And I think it is in many ways symbolic of the office.

LAUER: Should she have gotten off the plane wearing slacks and then gone in a car or gone into a restroom in 106 degree heat and changed into shorts? I'm not trying to be sarcastic here.

Ms. GIVHAN: Yes, you are, Matt.

LAUER: No, I'm not. I'm not. Should she have done that? I mean, first, it's a plane.

Ms. GIVHAN: Right.

LAUER: I mean, it's not like she's going for a state visit. She's on vacation.

Ms. GIVHAN: I mean, that's why I said that I'm ambivalent about it because I do think that one of the reasons that we're so struck by the photograph is because we don't see first ladies looking that informal. And I think it's a wonderful thing that she's bringing informality to that position, but on the other hand, we're still kind of grappling with what the first lady is supposed to be all about.

LAUER: Well, Mary, Robin raises the question, and I think in--and I'm paraphrasing here, this office of the presidency. So does the office shape the family or should the family have some role in shaping the office? And she's a modern woman.

Ms. TOMER: Exactly. I think women have really connected to Michelle Obama, recognizing that there are moments when she's dressed down, moments when she's dressed up, that she's playing different roles. That speaks to a lot of women.

LAUER: I'm just curious, Robin, jeans would be bad coming off Air Force One, a baseball hat? I mean, I want to know where the line is.

Ms. GIVHAN: Well, I think it's a constant tug-of-war and I think that there's a lot more leeway for the president, who regularly gets off of Air Force One in jeans or a baseball cap. He's been photographed in shorts and no one responds with a second glance other than to suggest, perhaps, the press corps erred in taking the photograph.

LAUER: Right.

Ms. GIVHAN: Whereas with her, the error perhaps is on her for allowing herself to be photographed that way.

LAUER: All right, ladies, thank you. But we are talking about it, aren't we?

Ms. GIVHAN: Indeed.

Ms. TOMER: We are.

LAUER: Mary and Robin, thank you very much. We want to know what you think about Michelle Obama wearing these shorts in public. Go on to our Web site, todayshow.com, to weigh in. We'll give the results of that informal poll tomorrow.

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AL ROKER, CO-HOST: And thoughts. Well, let's take a look. Wednesday we asked you to go to todayshow.com. The burning question of the day, we wanted you to share your thought on Michelle Obama's decision to wear shorts on her family vacation. Man, did everybody jump on this.

ANN CURRY, CO-HOST: Yeah, some people thought it was inappropriate because she was photographed coming off of Air Force One, the presidential plane. Other people thought it was OK. We received one of our largest responses ever. Nearly 300,000 of you voted in our poll, and here go the results. Seventeen percent said the shorts were inappropriate; 83 percent said...

ROKER: Yeah!

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST: ...fine and dandy.

ROKER: Yeah!

LAUER: And apparently the people here agree with that. But it's amazing how many people have been talking about this.

CURRY: I know, it started a conversation.

ROKER: Come on. It's 100 degrees, you're on vacation. Come on.

CURRY: Right. But some--I think some of the people were concerned--were concerned because she is the first lady.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.