Michelle Obama has made a lot of news with her now infamous soundbite about how America is “downright mean” and that “for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.”
But the mainstream media feel that they must defend the potential first lady and show her “softer side.”
During the 1 PM hour of Monday's MSNBC News Live, host Andrea Mitchell interviewed Susan Page, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief, about the newspaper’s interview with Michelle Obama. During their discussion of Obama, Mitchell gushed: “She’s Princeton, she’s Harvard, she’s so smart and so beautiful and, you know, a mom and a wife and a partner and yet people get caricatured.”
Shortly after Michelle Obama’s appearance as a guest host on ABC’s the View, her choice of clothing began attracting media attention, turning political and general assignment journalists into fashion critics. NBC’s Today show claimed that "fashion icon" Obama had started a "frock frenzy." Before that, NBC's Lee Cowan, who has said covering Barack Obama makes his "knees quake," gushed that "Michelle Obama had always been there, dressed as brightly as her husband's smile."
Well today, Chicago Tribune fashion columnist Wendy Donahue took a stab at political commentary, using Obama’s dress as her news hook.
Want to know just how in the tank MSNBC's Dan Abrams is for Barack Obama?
On Thursday's "Verdict," the network's former general manager actually tried to deflect criticism from Michelle Obama by bringing up statements John McCain made concerning his experience as a Vietnam POW making him realize how much he loves America.
This is how Abrams began the program: "Tonight: We have uncovered comments from John McCain on camera that could undermine the steady right-wing attacks against Michelle Obama."
Is that Abrams' role as a journalist: to undermine attacks against the wife of a presidential candidate?
Readers are warned that the following transcript is likely to offend them in a fashion that might not be desired on a Saturday (video embedded upper right, use scrollbars to center, h/t Hot Air via NBer Thomas Stewart):
Charlotte Observer columnist Mary C. Curtis is in high dudgeon. She is all twisted up inside over the seeming lack of support that feminists have for Michelle Obama. She has decided to scold all those recalcitrant feminists, too. Yes, she's all upset over this thing wondering in her June 21 Washington Post op-ed, "Where are Obama's feminist defenders?" Curtis is even moaning that black women are second-class citizens, even with feminists. She is all in righteous indignation about the "The Loud Silence Of Feminists."
Curtis is agonizing over the fact that women aren't defending Michelle Obama. She imagines that feminists have failed women, specifically black women. Well, I agree at some point. Feminists have failed women, but the least of which is Michelle Obama. Not that Curtis seemed to notice, but feminists have indeed been silent on the treatment of women in the Muslim world. They have sat silent over forced weddings, beatings, female circumcision of children, rape, stoning and so-called honor killings going on not just in the Middle East, but in every western country that has a sizable Muslim population.
The softening of Michelle Obama’s image continued Friday morning on NBC’s Today. As if Michelle were an up-and-coming Jackie Kennedy, NBC devoted a story in its first half-hour (usually devoted to substantive news) to raving over Mrs. Obama as a "fashion icon" and the sleeveless dress she wore on ABC’s The View as starting a "frock frenzy." At the top of the show, co-host Matt Lauer announced: "Fashion frenzy. Why women everywhere are dying to get this $148 dress, today, Friday, June 20, 2008."
Nineteen minutes into the first half-hour, the screen graphic was "Fashion Icon? Michelle Obama Frock Frenzy." Co-host Meredith Vieira raved the Michelle dress was a "steal" and that fashion designers "would die to dress her right now." With the celebrated dress hung like a Smithsonian Institution museum piece in the background (reserving Mrs. Obama’s place in the First Lady pantheon already?), Vieira did the gooey girl-talk job Kathie Lee Gifford was hired to do in the 10 am hour:
New York Times reporter Alessandra Stanley watched Michelle Obama's performance as co-host of the morning chat panel "The View" for her Thursday "TV Watch" report, "Michelle Obama Highlights Her Warmer Side," and came away raving about Obama's "all but flawless performance."
But before that, Stanley worked in some snipes against Republicans. After stating unconvincingly that Michelle Obama had "endured far more virulent attacks by her critics" than had Cindy McCain, Stanley succumbed to smug liberal stereotyping and, in a stretch bizarre even for her, reached back to the Equal Rights Amendment to explain why Republican presidential spouses are supposedly passive housewives:
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Julie Chen teased an upcoming segment on Michelle Obama appearing on ABC’s "The View": "Also this morning, like Cindy McCain did this past spring, Michelle Obama co-hosted 'The View' yesterday. We're going to see how comfortable she was with the women of 'The View' and what she had to say on everything from sexism in politics to who does the housework in the Obama home."
Later, correspondent Tracy Smith reported: "Perhaps hoping she'd give her husband a bump in the polls, Michelle Obama played co-host on 'The View' yesterday. Tackling topics from panty hose...to political attacks." A clip was then played of "View" co-host Joy Behar asking Obama: "Do you feel there was any sexism in the media?," with Obama replying: "I -- there is -- yes, there's always a level of -- people aren't used to strong women."
Smith later explained appearances by both Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama on "The View" by touting a CBS News poll from April: "58% of voters were undecided on how they felt about Michelle Obama. 75% were undecided about Cindy McCain." Smith then credited Bill Clinton with beginning the trend of presidential candidates, and their wives, making guest appearances on popular shows: "In 1992, then candidate Bill Clinton got attention by playing the sax on Arsenio...Since then, guest spots on entertainment shows have become a political rite of passage." Smith remarked how: "McCain traded barbs with Letterman. And Obama got his groove on with Elllen."
In what was, more or less, a puff piece about Michelle Obama on Thursday's "Today" show, Lee Cowan took Obamagasms to new heights when he described Michelle's fashion sense:
"In victory and in defeat Michelle Obama had always been there, dressed as brightly as her husband's smile, determined though, not to steal the spotlight but to put her signature touch on what's become their campaign."
The above Cowan observation came during a set-up piece for an interview segment with Doris Kearns Goodwin, in which "Today" co-anchor Meredith Vieira strategized with the presidential historian about how Michelle can improve her image. While the segment did mention Michelle's "For the first time in my adult lifetime I'm really proud of my country," gaffe at times it sounded like an E! red carpet fashion breakdown (audio available here):
"Good Morning America" reporter Kate Snow resorted to typical liberal terminology while asking Cindy McCain on Thursday about abortion and "women's rights groups." After observing that her husband, Senator John McCain, has been courting females, Snow simplistically asserted, "...But women's rights groups say once [women voters] discover he's anti-abortion, they may change their minds." So, pro-abortion organizations equal "women's rights groups?"
The interview, which took place in Vietnam where Mrs. McCain has been working with a charity organization, did feature friendly subjects, such as the children of the politician's wife and other topics. But Snow also offered questions that appeared designed to trap McCain. Speaking of Barack Obama, Snow queried, "Would you feel safe with Barack Obama as your president?" After mentioning the lack of interviews Cindy McCain has participated in, the ABC correspondent blurted, "And if [people] say, oh, she's just sort of up there and posing, what would you say to people who think that?" In contrast, "Good Morning America" has delivered numerous softball pieces on the spouses of Democratic presidential candidates.
It's rare to hear an MSM figure flatly suggest that a presidential campaign lied, but Joe Scarborough broke out the the l-word today in wondering whether chief Obama strategist David Axelrod did just that when he emphatically denied, on yesterday's show, that there is a concerted "makeover" of Michelle Obama in the works.
Now her husband’s presidential campaign is giving her image a subtle makeover, with a new speech in the works to emphasize her humble roots and a tough new chief of staff. On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama will do a guest turn on “The View,” the daytime talk show on ABC, with an eye toward softening her reputation.
When Axelrod appeared on Morning Joe yesterday at 7:40 AM EDT, Scarborough quizzed him about the matter [dialogue as per closed-caption transcript]. The senior Obama aide's denial of a makeover plan couldn't have been more categorical:
[Update, 10:30 am EDT Thursday: Martin's title at CNN is now political analyst, not contributor, according to an e-mail we received earlier this morning. This must be a very recent development, as Mr. Martin was referred to as "contributor" as late as June 17.]
CNN contributor Roland Martin, when asked on Tuesday’s "Anderson Cooper 360" if Michelle Obama was being held to a different standard than other presidential candidates’ wives, unequivocally placed the blame on conservative men. "No, I think what you have is you've got some weak men on the conservative side who, frankly, don't like strong women. I mean, we saw the exact same thing take place for Hillary Clinton back in 1992.... All of a sudden... Michelle Obama is this angry black woman, when in fact, she's an accomplished woman, a mother, a wife. And so, they are trying to define her in that way, because they don't want to deal with the reality."
The Obama campaign is trying to re-create Michelle Obama after her stumbles on the campaign trail, and the mainstream media are more than willing to pitch in.
Earlier today, NewsBusters contributor Clay Waters, director of the MRC’s Times Watch project, critiqued a New York Times story, written by Michael Powell and Jodi Kantor, which helped Obama soften her image and suggested that her "proud of my country" remarks were unfairly covered.
Powell reprised his work spinning Michelle Obama on MSNBC today.
The Times staffer sat down with MSNBC's Tamron Hall during the 9 AM hour of the June 18 "MSNBC News Live." During this time, Powell claimed that the potential first lady’s harsh image has "certainly been imposed on her," as though Mrs. Obama’s statements do not reflect who she really is and that those who criticize her public pronouncements are somehow putting words in her mouth.
Just hours after the New York Times published an article entitled "Michelle Obama Looks for a New Introduction" (as reported by my colleague Clay Waters moments ago), Us Weekly unveiled its new issue featuring the Obamas in a cover story depicting the potential first lady as a "down-to-earth mom" that "shops at Target."
I guess we can declare the Michelle Obama makeover season in full swing, dontcha think?
Update: Apparently this is a pattern for Us, as Tim Graham previously reported the headline about Obama in the March 10 issue "HE REALLY IS JUST LIKE US!"
Readers are cautioned to have a trash receptacle handy before viewing the headline and teaser on the magazine's cover:
Who needs Fightthesmears.com when you have the New York Times?
Times reporters Michael Powell and Jodi Kantor helped Michelle Obama soften her image in Wednesday's big front-page interview, "After Attacks, Michelle Obama Looks for a New Introduction." The long, laudatory piece was anchored with a large photo, taking up half the upper fold of the front page, of Michelle Obama listening thoughtfully to her husband's famous race speech back in March.
The Times portrayed criticism of Michelle Obama as either hurtful or out of line. Her controversial comment in Wisconsin, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country,"which suggested for many both a lack of pride in America and an unpleasant self-absorption, was dismissed by the Times as a mere "rhetorical stumble," with the implication that the media overplayed it (the Times certainly didn't).
At least the Times did a rowback on its previous false assertion that conservative bloggers had been behind the rumor about Michelle Obama's "whitey" speech, when in fact, as the Times now writes, it was a "blogger who supported Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton" (Larry Johnson) who circulated the claim.
CNN contributor Roland Martin, a known Barack Obama sympathizer, surprisingly isn’t buying the argument that conservatives/Republicans are behind the rumored Michelle Obama "whitey" comment. During a segment on Thursday’s "Anderson Cooper 360," substitute anchor Campbell Brown asked Martin, "Republicans have made it clear, pretty much, that Michelle is fair game here. Are you surprised by the intensity of the attacks?" He replied, "I'm not surprised by it, but I think, also, we can't blame Republicans for everything. It's these idiot Democrats that started some of this stuff."
The story made the "top headlines" lineup for the afternoon of June 13, along with a headline tease for recent video from Fox News Channel where an onscreen graphic labeled the mother of two as Sen. Obama's "baby mama." Online slang lexicon urbandictionary.com defines a baby mama as "The mother of your child(ren), whom you did not marry and with whom you are not currently involved."
The "Michelle Obama 2.0" article begins by regaling readers with a look at life in the Obama household as given by Barack and Michelle on a campaign stop in Columbus, Ohio. The Illinois senator joked about his wife speaking more endearingly of him on the campaign trail than she does behind closed doors:
"She never says such nice things about me at home!" he smiles. "I really enjoy listening to her praise me like that because when I get home she'll remind me that I didn't make the bed."
The article then continued by contrasting the domestic bliss of the young Obamas with those mean ol' conservatives dead-set on stopping the presumptive Democratic nominee by gunning for Mrs. O.:
Called Fight the Smears, the website was apparently inspired by unfounded rumors that a recording exists of Obama's wife Michelle ranting about "Whitey" at the pulpit of the radical Trinity United Church of Christ, which the Obamas attended for 20 years until Barack Obama came under fire for the anti-American raving of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Showing early signs of a bad habit, the Times strongly implied that the rumor originated with conservative bloggers, even though all evidence suggests that it first broke in the blogosphere in mid-May at the blog of a Hillary Clinton supporter.
On Friday's "Good Morning America," former top Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos attacked criticism of Barack Obama as comparable to "the experience of the Michael Dukakis Democratic campaign in 1988, of John Kerry's campaign in 2004." In an apparent dig at the Swift Boat veterans and their criticism of John Kerry, the ex-Democratic official-turned journalist maligned, "In both those cases, the Democratic candidates were attacked by unfair and untrue charges but failed to respond and lost the election." Stephanopoulos, who worked on the Dukakis campaign, didn't mention what "unfair and untrue" changes he was referring to regarding the '88 election.
Both the Stephanopoulos segment and a previous piece by ABC reporter Jake Tapper discussed attacks and "unflattering and untrue" criticism of both Barack and Michelle Obama. Tapper observed that the candidate's wife has made some "controversial comments." However, the GMA reporter, and later Stephanopoulos and news anchor Chris Cuomo, failed to mention what those statements might be. To be fair, Tapper has previously highlighted Mrs. Obama's utterance that, with the 2008 campaign, "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country." But it would have been helpful to have played the clip on Friday's segment. After all, is there not a difference between internet smears that the Illinois senator is a secret Muslim and criticism of actual statements made on the campaign trail?
Michelle Obama could be considered a liability to Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, especially with her controversial "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country" remarks. As such, the liberal media are trying to work against the potentially negative effects of her comments by portraying Michelle as a victim of those evil conservatives and Republicans, even though a prominent Hillary Clinton blogger floated a nasty rumor about Obama using a racial slur.
A June 12 article by Chicago Tribune’s Christi Parsons entitled "Whispers Get Loud Around Michelle Obama" follows this trend. Parsons wrote: "[Michelle Obama] is emerging as an enticing target for conservative critics." So, it’s only conservatives and Republicans who would criticize Michelle Obama?
My late father, who worked with the toughest kids in a Brooklyn high school, used to say that when a person's reaction is disproportionate to the stimulus, something else is causing it. So when Obama campaign co-chair Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) dramatically reserved the "hottest ring in hell" for those who would go after Michelle Obama, my antennae went up. Interviewing him, MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell also seemed a bit taken aback by the forcefulness of Durbin's response.
O'Donnell broached the subject by quoting from Maureen Dowd's NY Times column of this morning:
It’s good news for Obama that Hillary’s out of the race. But it’s also bad news. Now Republicans can turn their full attention to demonizing Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama is the new, unwilling contestant in Round Two of the sulfurous national game of “Kill the witch.”
Conservative criticism of Michelle Obama has no merit whatsoever and serves only as an outlet of right-wing hatred. That's the impression that Los Angeles Times reporter Robin Abcarian leaves readers with his June 11 story, "The GOP takes aim at Michelle Obama.":
They loved to hate Hillary Rodham Clinton. They loved to hate Teresa Heinz Kerry. And now, it appears, conservative voices are energetically taking on Michelle Obama.
"Mrs. Grievance" bellowed the cover of a recent National Review, which featured a photo of a fierce-looking Obama. The magazine's online edition titled an essay about her stump speech "America's Unhappiest Millionaire."
Michelle Malkin, the popular conservative blogger, called her "Obama's bitter half."
Since Barack Obama declared himself the Democrat presidential nominee Tuesday, supposedly impartial press members have been sycophantically gushing over the "fist bump" he and his wife shared that evening just prior to his victory speech (video embedded right).
Such has been reported by NewsBusters here and here.
On Sunday's "Reliable Sources," CNN's Howard Kurtz and guests discussed the media's fascination with the bump, and demonstrated just how separated from American society these folks really are.
After showing video clips of how various outlets reported the bump, Kurtz asked CBS National Correspondent Byron Pitts the following:
Is it merely a slow news day for Time.com, or perhaps the latest example of the media's agenda to present Barack Obama as a breath of fresh air in American politics?
Using a now-famous fist-bump between Sen. Barack Obama and wife Michelle as the news hook, Time magazine's M.J. Stephey sought out yesterday to explore the history of the greeting. The story is now teased on the magazine's Web page as a top story (see screencap at right).
Stephey gives a few plausible theories, including one involving the lamest cartoon superheroes ever:
AP reports Michelle Obama will serve as a guest host of ABC's The View on June 18, a few weeks after Cindy McCain took a turn. E! Online gabbed: "No celebrity guests have been booked yet, but we're sure Barack Obama's Princeton and Harvard-educated missus will have no trouble being heard over the most vocal ladies in daytime."
AP's dispatch is brief, but whacks at critics: "Michelle Obama was injected into the campaign when the Tennessee Republican Party posted an online video questioning her patriotism. That prompted her husband, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, to say political opponents should lay off his wife."
Isn't this "injected" language a little weird when political reporters gush over her as the "Supersurrogate" who can wow crowds all over?
AP's brief did not quote her controversial claim that she loves her country when it empowers her husband: "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."
If Joba Chamberlain's debut as a Yankee starter didn't go that well last night, Joe Scarborough wasted no time this morning in demonstrating that, after a stint on the DL, he still has his stuff. Within minutes of reassuming his host's role, Scarborough unleashed a high hard one in the direction of Chris Matthews's chin.
Scarborough, back from an extended leave spent with his wife who's experiencing a difficult pregnancy, reported that the medical situation seems to have stabilized. Readers will surely join in wishing Joe and his family well.
The opening segment was, naturally, devoted to a discussion of Barack Obama's clinching of the Dem nomination, and to Hillary Clinton's less-than-gracious speech in which she declined to withdraw from the race and pointedly kept her options open. Which in turn led Scarborough to suggest that, at the beginning of Obama's campaign, there were only three true believers.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: It seems to me that the Clintons have very little respect for Barack Obama. This was his night. An historic night. A night that nobody believed—but perhaps Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and Chris Matthews—this was a night that very few people believed would ever happen. It happened. And on that night, she's sticking a sharp stick in his eye, saying listen: you either make me Vice-President, or you put me on the Supreme Court if that's what I want, or you play with me, or else . . . this is going to get really ugly.
CNN’s Kyra Phillips and Suzanne Malveaux fretted over Barack Obama’s recent decision to leave his "controversial church" during a segment on Monday’s "American Morning." During her introduction to Malveaux’s report on the decision, Phillips lamented, "You know, he's getting criticized -- okay, he acting like a typical politician.... He's bailing out of the church. Well, he would have been accused of the same type of things if he stayed in the church. He can't win." Malveaux responded, "The things is, you know, Kyra, this was a personal decision. It was a political decision, but also a personal decision. When I interviewed Michelle Obama, they talked about the kind of pain that -- actually disassociating themselves from Reverend Wright...."
Both before and after her report, Malveaux guessed that the fact that the Obamas "had no control over the church" contributed to their decision to leave.
Time brought the hammer, nails, and lumber to build on Barack Obama’s demand that conservatives "lay off my wife." The June 2 edition of the "news" magazine included a two-page spread on "The War Over Michelle." Reporters Nancy Gibbs and Jay Newton-Small (both females) suggested she’s now "a favorite target of conservatives, who attack her with an exuberance that suggests there are no taboos anymore." They cited Hugh Hewitt, National Review, and an anonymous blog commenter as the villains of the piece.
The Time duo attempted the spin that this is puzzling since Mrs. Obama is so conservative:
In the early going, Michelle Obama was not an obvious conservative target, since in some obvious ways she's so conservative herself.
Breaking news! A parallel universe does indeed exist, and either John Harwood or I inhabit it. The irrefutable evidence came this evening, as Harwood of CNBC/NYT claimed that Michelle Obama will be—albeit slightly–more of an asset to her husband's campaign than will Cindy McCain to that of her spouse.
Here was Harwood's response on this evening's Race for the White House to a question from host David Gregory about the respective roles the two spouses will play in the coming campaign.
JOHN HARWOOD: Yes, look, I don't know how you match up spouses, and obviously people generally speaking aren't going to vote on that. Cindy McCain looks a little bit more exotic, she's a little richer than Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama has a little bit more of the average, middle-class housewife look about her, she's got young kids. So, I'm not sure there's a big advantage for either side, if I had to give any I'd say slight advantage to Michelle Obama.