[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.
CNN correspondent Carol Costello compared Cindy McCain to a "Stepford Wife" due to her "low key" role in her husband’s campaign so far, in a segment on Wednesday’s "The Situation Room." Costello, detailing Mrs. McCain’s recent photo spread in Vogue magazine, stated the feature "projects an image quite unlike the Cindy McCain we see on the trail," and a talking head described this "Cindy McCain we see" as "low key... taking the traditional role of standing by her husband's side at events." Costello then quipped, "A role critics say makes Mrs. McCain look like -- well, Glenn Close in the movie ‘The Stepford Wives.’" [audio available here]
On the other hand, Costello described Michelle Obama’s Vogue spread more glowingly: "...Michelle Obama chose a traditional black dress with pearl earrings for her Vogue spread. As The Washington Post described it, it was if Michelle Obama was saying 'I am not some scary other.... I am Camelot with a tan.'"
In all the fuss over Barack Obama going on ABC and telling his opponents to "lay off my wife," some might have assumed that Obama was implying that Michelle Obama wasn't a major player in the Obama campaign. Read the transcript again, and you'll notice he never says that. (Michelle, however, felt compelled in that interview to deny Robert Novak's buzz that she axed Hillary from the ticket.)
All this reminded me of an April 24 CBS Evening News story where Katie Couric spent some gummy-grinned giggle time inside the Obama campaign HQ. As she surveyed the press shop, a camera found this sheet of paper with a Barack declaration of policy: "Whatever Michelle Says Is The Message."
Here's what Couric was saying as the shot hit the screen:
Then there's the press operation, answering questions from reporters, trying to tamp down any controversy, in constant contact with the road while trying to make sure the message of the day survives.
So when Barack says "lay off my wife," is he following the wife's message orders?
Liberal talk-radio star Ed Schultz has been a Barack Obama guy. In April, he spoke at a Democratic fundraiser in Fargo, and caused Obama to disassociate himself from Schultz’s remark that John McCain is a "warmonger." Sampling the show in the noon hour here in Virginia on Tuesday, Schultz said Obama’s "lay off my wife" comments on ABC were a "little sensitive" and "really short-sighted." Schultz thought it implied to people "And don’t believe her when she's on the stump." Here’s a summary from my quick note-taking:
The consensus E-mail from across America to this program is, if Obama doesn’t want the Republicans to pick on his wife, then let her stay home in the kitchen and not make speeches on the stump.
Then he said listeners also said the media should be "hammering Cindy McCain" for failing to release her tax returns and the media is accepting the "bogus excuse" that she’s protecting the privacy of her kids when she could be making unscrupulous "Sudanese investments."
Yesterday, Barack Obama began crying again. Someone should remind him... there's no crying in politics. He has whined that we can't use his middle name, he has whined when we bring up his close relations with aging hippy terrorists, that we ask aloud about his "spiritual mentor," the racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and now he is crying that we are highlighting the anti-American statements made by his wife as she campaigns for him all across the country. So, on Monday he whined "lay off my wife." Well, fast on the heels of Obama telling us we can't use the anti-American statements of his wife as a campaign issue we get the kiddies over at the DailyKos doing their best to "help" Barack Obama by making an image of Michelle Obama hanging from a tree with robbed KKK figures torturing her with a branding iron and claiming that this is the "NEW IMPROVED" GOP strategy. So much for the subtleties and civility that Barack claims he wants, eh?
Even more damning, Kos pulled the entire post off the website, photoshopped image of Michelle as KKK victim and all. Little Green Footballs has a great screen shot of the original post, but here is the original photoshopped image:
MRC President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell appeared on Fox News Channel's May 20 edition of "Fox & Friends" in the 8 a.m. half-hour. Bozell was joined by liberal radio talk show host Mike Papantonio to discuss whether Michelle Obama should be "off-limits" to media scrutiny and whether Hillary Clinton's complaints about slanted media are overblown.
GRETCHEN CARLSON, co-host: Brent, are spouses off-limits in 2008?
BRENT BOZELL, President of the Media Research Center: Well, you know, I'm institutionally sympathetic to the idea that a spouse should be off-limits if the spouses want to be off-limits, if the spouse isn't participating in the political process. In this case, you've got a spouse who is well-informed, well-educated, well-spoken and outspoken on the campaign trail campaigning on behalf of her husband. So absolutely she's fair game. Of course she is. And it's an insult to her to say that she shouldn't be.
Monday provided a great example of a network correspondent advancing Barack Obama's political cause by treating him as a victim of a nefarious GOP attack, thus allowing him to appear virtuous in his reply, an answer the other networks then highlighted to enhance the victimization theme. ABC, CBS and NBC on Monday night showcased Obama's scolding of the Tennessee Republican Party for posting a video on You Tube contrasting Michelle Obama's February admission that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” with people declaring their pride in the U.S.
(As detailed, with video, in the earlier NewsBusters posting by Scott Whitlock, on Monday's Good Morning America ABC's Robin Roberts asked if he is “prepared” for “more and more” such attacks. Obama called the ad “low class” and ominously warned his opponents should “be careful” in making his wife an issue “because that I find unacceptable.”)
Monday night, ABC's David Wright reported that “Obama tried to subtract one potential issue from the general election -- his wife.” But without playing the February Michelle Obama soundbite to remind viewers what she said, Wright asserted “certain Republicans have already questioned her patriotism.” As if the concern is baseless. On CBS, Dean Reynolds played the February clip before relaying how Barack Obama “blasted a Republican Internet ad which uses a controversial statement she made about her husband's campaign to question her love of country.” Lee Cowan, on NBC, related Obama's “Rule Number One: lay off his family. When asked on ABC's Good Morning America about this Republican ad criticizing his wife for saying that 'this was the first time' that she'd been 'proud of her country,' he fired back.”
"Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts conducted a syrupy, softball interview with Michelle and Barack Obama on Monday's program, mostly free from any discussion of substantive policy issues. Instead, Roberts played a clip from a Tennessee State Republican Party ad that attacked Michelle Obama for saying the '08 campaign marked the first time she's been proud of America.
The GMA host empathetically wondered, "Should you get through this process and you have the general election ahead of you, that this is what you can expect more and more of. Are you prepared for that?" Now, readers will remember that liberals (many in the media) were outraged over ABC's April 16 Democratic debate for focusing on allegedly unimportant topics and not "the issues." But Roberts did the exact same thing during her interview, discussing political "horse-race" subjects such as Hillary Clinton for VP and an extensive debate on whether the Obama family will be getting a dog. As an example of the not-so tough queries the candidate's wife faced, the ABC host at one point cooed, "What have you learned about yourself since that night in Iowa?" [audio available here]
In 2007, ABC reporter Claire Shipman enthused that the race between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was one of "fluid poetry" versus "hot factor." On Tuesday's "Good Morning America, she rhapsodized about the spouses of these two Democratic candidates. According to Shipman, "...I think it says it all that [Michelle Obama's] Secret Service code name is renaissance."
Discussing the campaigning being done by the senator's wife in Indiana and North Carolina, the correspondent enthused, " More, more, more. Michelle Obama's straight style has always been an asset." (Shipman made no mention as to whether Mrs. Obama's claim that the 2008 campaign marked the first time she was proud of America was an example of this "straight style" or if that comment was an asset to the campaign.) As for Bill Clinton, Shipman declared that all had been forgiven for previous verbal gaffes: "And what's most interesting is this campaign has gone on for so long, we've seen one spouse go from asset to liability, to asset again." Marveling at the ex-president's exuberance, she applauded, "No event is too early, no schedule too full, no front porch too small."
An evening after the NBC Nightly News showcased Michelle Obama's plea to move on from focusing on Jeremiah Wright because talking about him “doesn't help kids out there,” on Thursday night the newscast again provided a platform for Barack and Michelle Obama to advance their efforts to show humility and paint media coverage as unfair. Setting up a second night of excerpts from the interview the couple conducted with Meredith Vieira for the Today show, anchor Brian Williams explained how “both went out of their way to say they understand that a lot of Americans are right now trying to figure out just who Barack Obama is.”
The excerpt began with Barack Obama maintaining “it's understandable” to “raise questions” about him because he's an African-American named Barack, “so if I don't wear a flag pin, that becomes a cause for concern,” but “if John McCain doesn't wear a flag pin, look, he's a war hero.”
That prompted Vieira to empathize: “So you're treated differently, then, you think?” And to wonder to Michelle Obama: “So you never sit there and get upset about these?” Barack Obama interjected that “she stops reading the newspapers during certain spans of time” before she quipped, during loving back-and-forth joshing: “I take the paper and I ball it up and I throw it in a corner!”
CNN secured an interview in Indiana with "steely-tough" Michelle Obama and Caroline Kennedy on Wednesday night for Anderson Cooper 360, but the interviewer, CNN reporter Suzanne Malveaux, saw her job as deeply feeling the Obama family pain. Her idea of a rough question on the Jeremiah Wright controversy was "Did he betray you?" She also asked "How painful was that?" and "At what point did you stop empathizing with your pastor?" With Caroline Kennedy there, Malveaux avoided the obvious question of how either woman greeted Rev. Wright’s mockery on Sunday night in Detroit of how badly John F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy spoke English.
Rev. Wright impersonated Kennedy in a nasal voice, as when a black comedian cracks wise about a stereotypical white person:
In 1961, it's been all over the Internet now, John Kennedy could stand at the inauguration in January and say, "isk not what your country can do for you, isk rather what you can do for your country." How do you spell isk? Nobody ever said to John Kennedy that's not English, "isk." Only to a black child would they say you speak bad English.
Would it have been any better for Barack Obama to have said people "rely" on bigotry rather than "cling" to it? I don't think so, but apparently he does . . .
This morning's "Today" aired an extended clip from an interview Meredith Vieira recently conducted of Barack and Michelle Obama. The full interview will be shown Saturday on MSNBC. While I didn't detect any blockbuster moments, there were a few notable nuggets.
On the issue of why he didn't distance himself from Rev. Wright sooner, Obama says: "When those first snippets came out, I thought it was important to give him the benefit of the doubt." That would suggest Obama actually had some doubt as to where Rev. Wright stood. Is that credible, after 20 years in the angry pastor's pews?