Michael W. Chapman of our sister site CNSNews.com reports on cost estimates for the hand-sewn gown Michelle Obama wore at Tuesday’s state dinner for the prime minister of France. Think five figures. If Ann Romney were First Lady now, would that escape the media’s politicized scrutiny? (In 2012, she was slammed for wearing a $990 shirt on "CBS This Morning."
Wednesday’s Washington Post merely carried the headline “America, elegantly draped over her shoulders” next to a foot-high page-dominating photograph of Mrs. Obama in the dress. Michelle-loving fashion writer Robin Givhan insisted only “churlish” rumblers would lower themselves to asking about the price tag of a gown like this:
Since we disposed with the notion that the networks had a feeding frenzy on the Anthony Weiner scandal, what about the news magazines? They began with a whimper, but then that week’s magazines were summer double issues. After the week off, what happened in their June 27 issues? Not much.
Newsweek didn’t offer a down arrow in their “Conventional Wisdom” column, but they gave an up arrow to “GOP Fringe,” arguing “Perry, Bachmann, and Paul show screwballs’ strength.”
Washington Post fashion reporter Robin Givhan, best known to many as Michelle Obama's worshipful accessory to fashion, lectured Sunday to the dumpy masses of America. As most U.S. citizens have "blighted" the landscape in horrid summer clothes, they should really honor the First Lady for knowing how to dress on vacation -- even if Mrs. Obama is wearing a French-designer top that most likely cost upwards of $500 as she took taxpayers for a ride with a fancy Spanish vacation.
First lady Michelle Obama returned to the White House last week after spending her summer vacation walking the fine fashion line between comfortably casual and utterly camera-ready. Her travel attire served as a wake-up call to all those American tourists who have blighted the national landscape with their ill-fitting shorts, sad-sack T-shirts and aggressively revealing tank tops: You can do better.
At first blush, it seems as if this item might be one to file under "It Takes One to Know One." That would be wrong; the circumstances are too different.
Carly Fiorina took what she thought was a private swipe (which might not even have been a swipe at all, as noted at the end of this post) at Barbara "Don't Call Me Ma'am" Boxer's hairdo as being "so yesterday." The comment was captured by a live microphone.
The Washington Post's Robin Givhan writes widely-read columns on fashion, and has all the time in the world to consider the temperance, or lack thereof, of her critiques before they are published.
Given Givhan's situation and history, the WaPo fashion editor's characterization of Fiorina as a "style bully" (HT to Ann Althouse) is especially galling. If anyone has a track record of style bullying, it's Givhan, whose targets unsurprisingly are often conservatives and Republicans.
Sticking to the hair-raising subject at hand, the Media Research Center documented Givhan's given tendencies in an April 15, 2005 item:
On Sunday, Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan took a break from her usual ogling over Michelle Obama and praised the glitzy fashion shoot of CBS anchor Katie Couric in an article headlined "Harper’s Bazaar hails the conquering Couric, a power broker in stiletto heels."
Nowhere in the article does Givhan discuss the bad PR echo after the layoffs of "dozens" at CBS News, where network suits surrounding the "conquering Couric" declared she would make no pay concessions to save the little people. (Isn’t it a little funny when a news organization won’t offer a precise layoff number to other media?)
Instead, Givhan lauded the anchorwoman for daring to obsess over her own image and add some "sexy," and for helping get those wonderful Obamas elected:
The Sunday Arts & Style section of The Washington Post offered the paper’s pronouncements on "The Best and Worst of 2009." The most noteworthy list came on Fashion from Post fashion writer Robin Givhan. It might seem shocking that both Michelle Obama and her social secretary Desiree Rogers ended up on the Worst list. What’s more shocking is that they’re mentioned on the Best list, too – six times.
Before we get to those specifics, Givhan was crystal clear in her distaste for conservative beauty queen Carrie Prejean, putting her on the Worst list for what she said, not what she wore. Notice Givhan avoids using her actual name:
4. Miss California USA epitomizes all the reasons beauty queens should just stick to professing their support for world peace. When you stoop to calling Larry King inappropriate on his own show, you know it's time to just shut your trap.
Tuesday night’s state dinner was yet another occasion for the media to fumble around in the basket of superlatives for the Obamas. In a typically unctuous passage on Wednesday, Washington Post writers Robin Givhan and Roxanne Roberts declared the First Lady had brought sexy glamour back to the capital:
The first lady, however, was the star of the show. She glittered in a strapless silver, embroidered gown by the Indian-born designer Naeem Khan. She wore her hair swept back and had piles of sparkling "churis," traditional Indian bracelets, on her wrist. Her ensemble announced that no-holds-barred, Hollywood-style sexy glamour had arrived in Washington.
Left unsaid (but implied): Laura Bush was a sexless, paint-by-numbers wallflower. NPR reporter Andrea Seabrook filed a giddy story on her personal feelings for Wednesday’s Morning Edition that delved into Shakespeare for inspiration: ‘The whole room had a kind of ‘Midsummer Night's Dream’ feeling." Seabrook also thought Mrs. Obama was just perfect:
Say what you will about the Obama delegation to the Olympics bid in Denmark, Michelle Obama did not set foot in Europe without Robin Givhan of the Washington Post, frantically running in front of her with baskets of flower petals to scatter lavishly at her diva’s feet.
In the stench of defeat and embarrassment, Givhan on Saturday brought her overbearing pro-Obama spin to both Page One and the front of the Style section. The Style piece was gushier. It was headlined "First Lady's Olympian Effort Falls Short: But Her Impassioned Appeal Earns Plaudits." Let’s start at the story’s end, since its ooze is representative. Each finalist received a "diploma" of appreciation:
The certificate was approximately the size of a large traffic sign and came framed. The only word legible from a distance was "THANKS." President Obama accepted the diploma on behalf of Chicago2016.
The first lady could just as easily have received a gold star.
Urp. Givhan found Michelle outshined her husband and Oprah Winfrey, too:
It’s not just liberal policy and charismatic personalities that the liberal media find alluring about the Kennedy clan, but also its decidedly upper-crust fashion sense. In Sunday’s Washington Post, fashion reporter Robin Givhan waxed eloquent about the “look of rich tradition” the patrician Kennedy clan brought to their oft-publicly photographed wardrobe.
Yet four years ago, Givhan derided as “syrupy nostalgia” similar classic preppy sensibilities when then-Supreme Court nominee John Roberts and his family were in the limelight.
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz reported Thursday on black females on the Michelle Obama beat, and whether their shared race and gender produces gauzier coverage. "Indeed, most write with enthusiasm, in some cases even admiration, about the first lady as a long-awaited role model for black women." Kurtz found:
"Without a doubt, I identify with her as a brown-skinned African American woman," [Newsweek’s Allison] Samuels says. "Now we have Michelle and see her as a mother, a lawyer, a wife, and she's doing it fabulously." Samuels got to interview Obama during the campaign and "we had a girlfriend-to-girlfriend moment. We did connect."
Post writer Robin Givhan, one of the most syrupy writers on the Michelle beat, tried to suggest "news" wins out:
"We all bring the full depth of our experiences to the facts we emphasize, the questions we ask, the stories that get us excited," says Givhan, who was a year behind Obama at Princeton, although their paths did not cross. "But in the end, news is news."
The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan goes all gooey for Michelle Obama again at the top of the Style section on Friday, comparing the First Lady to Clair Huxtable, or as explained by the caption under their pictures: "As portrayed by Phylicia Rashad, Clair Huxtable was an accomplished yet down-to-earth figure. In Michelle Obama, the nation now has another symbol of success and style." Givhan writes with an admiration so dazzled that you worry she’s going to faint:
She serves as a symbol of middle-class progress, feminist achievement, affirmative-action success and individual style. And she has done all this on the world stage...while being black.
Time and again, observers grasp for adjectives to describe Obama's combination of professional accomplishment and soccer-mom maternalism. It's no wonder so many eye her with awe and disbelief. Or why a minority still view her with suspicion. There have been few broad cultural precedents for what she represents.
Washington, DC is considered more hip whenever the power balance shifts to the left. I didn't say that - Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts of the Washington Post's Reliable Source column said it. Wow! WaPo writers acknowledge that the snoberati equate hipness and style with leftist politics.
"Our examination of the evidence suggests that his [Obama's] influence on the city's cool/host metrics may be overstated," the duo report. They then give as evidence a little snapshot of city hotspots, star presence, fashion, and reality TV.
Count me impressed that WaPo writers question the whole "left is hip" zeitgeist. My only quibble here is that the Reliable Source suggests that people in DC no longer wear running shoes with pantyhose to work. Clearly, they are not on my bus or train route.
Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan used her Sunday column to find racism in the exception taken to Wanda Sykes describing Rush Limbaugh as the 20th terrorist on 9-11 and hoping his kidneys fail. Givhan never actually detailed those outbreaks of meanness. She merely suggested that a white guy like Stephen Colbert could get away with it, but not a black woman:
Comedian Wanda Sykes has been taken to the woodshed because her humor at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner turned pointed. Words alone didn't cause all that aggravation. A lot of it had to do with the person doing the talking. And how she looks.
Givhan ended by lecturing Washington that it should have never expected Sykes to be demure and not sassy. (This is a bit stilted, since anyone who knows Sykes knows she’s sassy – including the liberal White House correspondents who selected her, like AP’s Jennifer Loven, who said Sykes was selected for her "fresh style and engaging stage presence.") Givhan complained:
Two journalists appearing as guests on CNN on Wednesday and Thursday praised “mighty Michelle” Obama for being “stylish,” “successful,” and for showing “an interest in wanting to reach out to people who may feel they’ve been disenfranchised or held at a distance from the power structure.”
Eighteen hours later on Thursday’s American Morning, the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan tried to sell how Mrs. Obama could aid her husband on the international stage: “[She] helps people to get more of a human sense of the administration. And also, I think that for many people, there was, to some degree, a sense of being closed off to the rest of the world or closed off to those who are kind of outside of the mainstream by other administrations. And I think this is a way of trying to build those bridges in a way that is very non-confrontational.”
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.
One has to wonder if Robin Givhan is still atoning for what the Left perceives as a grievous sin against Hillary Clinton: expressing distaste for Hillary Clinton showing a bit of cleavage on the Senate floor. How else can you explain the fashion critic's January 8 Style section front-pager gushing over Hillary's emotional moment at a campaign event in New Hampshire yesterday (emphasis mine):
For a brief moment at a campaign stop in Portsmouth, N.H., Hillary Clinton let slip a glimpse of uncontrolled emotion. In response to a question from an empathetic voter who wondered how she remains upbeat and "so wonderful," Clinton's voice cracked as she conceded that the nonstop campaigning -- and all it entails -- is not easy.
Sure, Michael Vick has admitted involvement in dogfighting. But did you see how sharp he looked in that suit on the way to the courthouse? And yes, Mark McGwire bombed at those congressional hearings with his "I don't want to talk about the past" skate on steroids, but he's the epitome of what a XXXL Abercrombie & Fitch guy can be.
Inane as those comments are, they at least have the merit of being made by me in jest. But what is Robin Givhan's excuse for her similarly silly glorification of the fashion sense of another disgraced athlete, Marion Jones? For that's exactly what the Washington Post's style maven does in her column of this morning, "Marion Jones, a Success On the Glamour Track, Too".
The Washington Post 2008 campaign blog "The Trail" has an update on Cleavage-gate, a minor row that seems to have caught the paper's fashion critic Robin Givhan with a dear-in-the-headlights look while giving New York's junior senator a change to perk up her campaign's finances. [Update: Tim Graham has an excellent take on the matter, coming at it from a different angle than I did here. It's a good read. Check it out.]
As the Post's Howard Kurtz and Anne E. Kornblut note, Givhan protests that she:
...would never say the column was about a body part... It was about a style of dress. People have gone down the road of saying, 'I can't believe you're writing about her breasts.' I wasn't writing about her breasts. I was writing about her neckline.
No matter. Kurtz and Kornblut note that Hillary's acolytes are using Givhan's July 20 article to push-up fundraising: