Parade Magazine Interview with Obamas Pushes Myth of President's Mother as 'Sole or Primary Breadwinner'

President and Mrs. Obama granted an interview to Parade magazine to promote their Monday event, “a Working Families summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss the need for affordable childcare and paid family leave, raising minimum wage, and achieving equal pay for all.”

But in writing up the interview for the Sunday newspaper supplement, Parade editor-in-chief Maggie Murphy and former ABC reporter Lynn Sherr mangled the president’s history, leaving out the grandparents in Barack’s “dependent on single mom” story:

President Barack Obama and wife Michelle have never been your typical working stiffs. With four Ivy League degrees between them, they’ve enjoyed high incomes and strong job security. But before and during college, they each worked minimum-wage jobs. And there was a time when they felt the same kind of financial aches and marriage strains that today’s dual-income families know all too well. As a young married couple in Chicago, they were mired in student debt, juggling multiple jobs and two kids, and bickering over who did what housework. “I wouldn’t fold,” remembers the president. “I didn’t separate, and Michelle’s point was, that’s not laundry.”

Silly suds stories aside, the Obamas feel they’ve been there. They know what families need, especially America’s working moms. According to the Pew Research Center, a record 40 percent of households with children under the age of 18 are led by mothers who, much like the president’s own mother, are either the sole or primary breadwinner for the family.

This leaves out his mother’s parents. Obama lived a large chunk of his childhood with his grandparents in Hawaii, away from his mother. The president’s grandmother, a bank officer, supported him, including his schooling at the private Punahou Academy in Honolulu. When she died in 2008, she left her grandson almost $500,000 in bank stocks.

Obama alluded to her once in the Parade interview about their early years of marriage: “So, we pinched pennies. But we also got help. My grandmother helped a little bit on the down payment [for a condo]. And we scraped together what savings we had.”

Later in the interview, Michelle Obama touts how she made a list of demands to the University of Chicago Hospital before accepting a job there. Left out of this equation about empowered women? The notion that perhaps Mrs. Obama was given a lucrative post exactly because her husband was en route to the U.S. Senate.

MO: I took my last job [before my husband entered the White House] because of my boss’s reaction to my family situation. I didn’t have a babysitter, so I took Sasha right in there with me in her crib and her rocker. I was still nursing, so I was wearing my nursing shirt. I told my boss, “This is what I have: two small kids. My husband is running for the U.S. Senate. I will not work part time. I need flexibility. I need a good salary. I need to be able to afford babysitting. And if you can do all that, and you’re willing to be flexible with me because I will get the job done, I can work hard on a flexible schedule.” I was very clear. And he said yes to everything.

PARADE: You should be the agent for every woman out there.

MO: That’s how I advise young women: Negotiate hard and know your worth.

For a little reality check on Michelle's negotiating skills, let's see how her income tripled after Obama joined the Senate, via our sister site CNSNews.com:

“Michelle Obama was promoted to vice president for external affairs in March 2005, two months after her husband took office in the Senate,” the [Chicago] Tribune reported. “According to a tax return released by the senator this week, the promotion nearly tripled her income from the hospitals from $121,910 in 2004 to $316,962 in 2005.”

“Hospitals spokesman John Easton said Obama's salary was in line with the compensation received by the not-for-profit medical center's 16 other vice presidents,” the Tribune reported.

According to FactCheck.org, Mrs. Obama’s compensation from the University of Chicago Medical Center decreased after 2005. By 2007, she earned only $103,633 when, according to FactCheck.org, she “actually started working part-time.”

“In fact, Mrs. Obama’s income in 2006, a year after her promotion, had decreased to $273,618,” said FactCheck.org. “And for 2007 (the year she actually started working part-time), her income was $103,633, according to the couple’s tax return for that year.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis