ABC's Yunji de Nies Fawns Over 'Belle of the Ball' Michelle Obama

ABC reporter Yunji de Nies filed a gushing profile piece on Tuesday's "Nightline" for the first 100 days of Michelle Obama, showering praise on the President's wife. De Nies rhapsodized, “From her inaugural debut, Michelle Obama has been the belle of the ball.” Playing a clip of Mrs. Obama unveiling a statue for abolitionist Sojourner Truth, the ABC journalist described the First Lady as “perhaps the most powerful woman of the moment.” (If that's so, shouldn't reporters such as de Nies try to be slightly less fawning in their coverage?)

De Nies used the type of descriptions that have become typical from reporters who discuss the Obamas. She informed, “Her European tour solidified her rock star status," then added, “She held her own in a fashion face-off with model turned singer turned First Lady of France, Carla Bruni Sarkozy.”

The ABC correspondent talked to Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan, who provided this insight about the First Lady's arms: “They're arms that are of a very particular generation, they're about athleticism.” She continued the praise of appendages, stating, “They're the arms of a woman who came of age when women went to the gym and they lifted weights. And that wasn't deemed as unfeminine. So, I think in some ways it's generational.”

Viewers expecting a portrait of Mrs. Obama that was even slightly skeptical would have been severely disappointed. De Nies has developed quite a habit of extolling the virtues of the First Lady. On the April 3 “Good Morning America,” de Nies covered Obama's visit, along with her husband, to Europe, lauding the “Cinderella story” of the President's wife.

A transcript of the April 28 segment, which aired at 11:4pm, follows:

MARTIN BASHIR: In case you didn't know, tomorrow marks President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office. And while he'll take the stage tomorrow night for a primetime press conference, we've decided to use the same mile marker to assess the new first lady. A woman, who like her husband, has been on to go since day one, as Yunji de Nies now reports.

YUNJI DE NIES: In the center of the capital today, the country's most powerful women honored Sojourner Truth. A slave who became an abolitionist and women's right activist. Front and center was perhaps the most powerful woman of the moment.

MICHELLE OBAMA: I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves serving as the first lady of the President of the United States of America.

DE NIES: From her inaugural debut, Michelle Obama has been the belle of the ball.

ROBIN GIVHAN (fashion editor): She dresses in a way that's very contemporary and is not concerned with kind of trying to fit into the traditional costume of a first lady.

DE NIES: Every dress dissected, chronicled on cover after cover after cover. Even inspiring her own comic book.

DANIELLE BELTON (Blogger, BlackSnob.com): For most people the only black woman that they see on a regular basis is like maybe like Oprah, you know, as, you know, as your representative.

De NIES: So is Michelle more popular than Oprah?

BELTON: I'd argue at this point, yes.

DE NIES: No.

BELTON: I'd argue that Michelle is more popular than Oprah. If we're talking about-

DE NIES: That's pretty big.

BELTON: Well, Oprah, as you know, has put Michelle on the cover of her magazine. And Oprah only puts Oprah on the cover of Oprah's magazine. So even Oprah had to concede that her friend Michelle had a little more of the juice now.

DE NIES: Danielle Belton chronicles the first family on her blog, The Black Snob. Like so many she's watching the First Lady's every move.

BELTON: People expect you to be perfect at all times. They're looking for any type of flaw, any type of slip up to talk about.

DE NIES: Michelle Obama has created a frenzy, not with what she says, but what she wears and sometimes what she doesn't.

GIVHAN: They're arms that are of a very particular generation, they're about athleticism. They're the arms of a woman who came of age when women went to the gym and they lifted weights. And that wasn't deemed as unfeminine. So, I think in some ways it's generational.

DE NIES: Her European tour solidified her rock star status. She held her own in a fashion face-off with model turned singer turned First Lady of France, Carla Bruni Sarkozy. The British nicknamed her "Mighty Michelle" and when she broke protocol by putting her arm around the queen, the queen hugged right back. It's not just her encounters with the royals. Even the everyday-

OBAMA: I don't miss cooking. I'm just fine with other people cooking. Their food is really good.

DE NIES: -captivates the public.

OBAMA: I don't have to deal with the hard problems every day. I have some problems that I have to deal with, but I get to do the fun stuff.

DE NIES: The fun stuff is keeping her busy. There's her organic vegetable garden.

OBAMA: Are we done yet?

DE NIES: And that new puppy to chase around.

OBAMA: This is your life.

DE NIES: Her stated goal is to be mom-in-chief to daughters Sasha and Malia. And like so many first ladies before her, she spends a lot of time in public with children.

OBAMA: So, do I need to introduce myself?

STUDENT (FEMALE): Yes.

OBAMA: Okay.

DE NIES: Mrs. Obama seems her most authentic when she's connecting with kids.

OBAMA: There was no magic dust that was sprinkled on my head or on Barack's head. I never cut class. Sorry, I don't know if anybody's cutting class. I never did it. I loved getting A's. I remember there were kids around my neighborhood who would say, “Oh, you talk funny. You talk like a white girl.” I heard that growing up my whole life.

DE NIES: During the election they called her the closer because she could seal the deal for he husband. In Washington, she sounds like she's still campaigning.

OBAMA: Barack and I always believed that investing in the community that you live in first and foremost is critical.

DE NIES: For now, the closest she's come to policy are visits to Washington's federal agencies, on what her staff calls a listening tour. Though by all accounts, she's done most of the talking.

OBAMA: That's one of the things I've been doing over these first few months is thanking you all for your service to this country.

DE NIES: But America still has yet to hear from the other side of Michelle Obama, the Harvard trained lawyer, the executive, the woman who once was Barack Obama's supervisor.

BELTON: She is someone who is very careful about what she puts out there, about what kind of energy she puts out there, about what she has to say. You know, she's very mindful. She's very smart. I feel like she's waiting for the right time.

DE NIES: Hillary Clinton learned the hard way that too strong too fast didn't work. Laura Bush stayed in the shadows until almost the end.

BELTON: It's kind of hard to balance basically, you know, being the symbol of femininity that is the First Lady while also showing I am an intelligent, capable woman, capable of understanding policy, capable of directing policy, capable of representing an issue or an initiative that would help people. I know she has a few, you know, initiatives that she is interested in. So I imagine as time goes in she will express.

DE NIES: We're waiting for her to emerge.

BELTON: I know. Everyone is all excited.

DE NIES: I'm Yunji de Nies for "Nightline" at the White House.
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org