Attacking the children of presidents has long been off limits in partisan attacks and in the media, that does not mean that unwritten rule has not been broken time and time again. One can now add the spokesperson for Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, Elizabeth Lauten to the list of those breaking the taboo. On Friday Nov. 28, 2014 Lauten took to her Facebook page to attack President Barack Obama’s teenage daughters Malia, 16 and Sasha, 13 for their behavior and dress at this year’s Thanksgiving Turkey pardon held Wednesday afternoon, Nov, 26. The backlash against her rant forced Lauten to again take to Facebook and apologize in what seemed like an effort to save her career more than actual remorse. Democrats have taken to Twitter and in turn decided to attack Jenna Bush, 33 for her behavior as a teenager, when her father Republican George W. Bush was president.
Each year, Malia and Sasha join their father for the Thanksgiving Turkey pardon ceremony, one of the few official duties of the Obama girls, along with being present at some other holiday White House events. In her post on Facebook Lauten criticized the president’s daughters saying they should “try showing a little class,” “dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar,” and, “don’t make faces.”
The full post is as follows:
“Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.”
Yesha Callahan, a reporter from the African-American news site the Root was the first to report the cruel Facebook post. Callahan used Twitter to expose Lauten’s post: “In her In her spare time when @DCGopGirl is not doing work for @RepFincherTN08 she shames teenagers on Facebook.”
The video of the event showed that the girls did not appreciate some of their father’s attempts at executive action and turkey humor. Neither did Malia want to pet the turkey when her father asked if she would like to. Their presence was filled with eye rolling, crossed arms and very short skirts, still whatever may have been questioned about their behavior should not have been an opportunity for a partisan attack, but should have solely been the concern of their parents and maybe their grandmother. Whatever, the public wants to disagree with President Obama and his policies, one thing they would probably agree upon is he is a good father, who loves his daughters very much. As Obama has mentioned not having a father in his life has affected his role as a father, and he probably goes that extra mile, and would rather ignore his daughter’s embarrassment. It remains to be seen if President Obama pulls a Harry Truman in defending his daughters.
Truthfully, as each year goes by the girls are finding it attending the Turkey pardon more and more of a chore, that is no way condoning Lauten’s post. Even President Obama himself remarked at this year’s pardoning that he finds the ceremony a bit silly, expressing; “Tell me about it. It is a little puzzling that I do this every year. But I will say that I enjoy it because with all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office, it’s nice once in a while just to say: Happy Thanksgiving. And this is a great excuse to do it.”
Lauten’s criticism went viral over social media this past weekend, many comments by the public used screenshots of Malia and Sasha Obama at the Turkey pardon, and their expressions. The response was ranged from calling Lauten “mean,” “thoughtless,” and “ignorant,” to expletives. After the backlash for her comments, Lauten took again to Facebook later on Friday deleting her original post, and then writing a post apologizing. Her over the top apology was not sincere, but seemed as a desperate attempt to save her career. The following was her apology:
“I reacted to an article and quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager. After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents and re-reading my words online, I can see more clearly how hurtful my words were. Please know that these judgmental feelings truly have no place in my heart. Furthermore, I’d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words, and pledge to learn and grow (and I assure you I have) from this experience.”
After her apology, CBS News noted that Lauten made her Facebook private or deleted it all together; she has also refused to respond to the media. Lauten used to be responsible for new media at the Republican National Committee. This is not her first social media faux pas, in August she made a mistake and posted a personal tweet on Rep. Fincher’s official Twitter account, writing; “God I love this song. And beach music. AND shagging #pandora,” most thought she was making a sexual reference, when she was referring to dancing. Then again Lauten had to publicly explain her actions, saying; “It had nothing to do with Stephen Fincher. I don’t think he knows what Pandora is; he certainly doesn’t have it.” On Twitter the public is now calling for Lauten to be fired using the hashtag, #FireElizabethLauten.
Although the children of president are supposed to be off limits for partisan or media attacks, especially when they are still children or teenagers, that does not mean it never happens. President Harry Truman’s (1945-53) teenage daughter Margaret was the subject of bullying by the media as was Jimmy Carter’s (1977-81) pre-teen daughter Amy was constantly criticized, as was the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara Bush for their college freshmen partying during their father’s campaign and early months in office. President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton managed to shield teenage daughter Chelsea from the media however, she was fare game during her graduate school escapades at Oxford University in Clinton’s post-presidency years, but while her Mother was a Senator from New York.
President Truman did not let the media get away with their criticism and defended his daughter. In 1950, “Washington Post music critic Paul Hume” insulted Margaret’s singing in a review, writing she is “extremely attractive on the stage… [but] cannot sing very well. She is flat a good deal of the time. And still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish.” Truman responded with a threat, “Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!” Amy Carter was nine when she entered the White House and was a source of media curiosity for her pet cat, her antics in the White House including sleepovers in her South Lawn tree house and her attending public schools. Carter himself made her the subject of media scrutiny when in 1980 presidential debate he said he talked over national security nuclear weapons with his then 13-year-old daughter.
The comments on Twitter in response have turned ugly, the public ended up doing exactly what they abhorred so much. They turned around and started attacking Obama’s predecessor President George W. Bush’s daughter Jenna Bush. Even if Jenna is now 33, what the public was doing on Tweeter and social was no different from what Lauten did. The public took to Twitter posting embarrassing pictures of Jenna during her father’s time as president and used the hashtag #classy. The picture most tweeted was of Jenna at 19 drunk holding a cigarette at a college party, tripping over a friend; the image went viral on Twitter. At that point, the media just as cruelly highlighted behavior that although no model, is no different than any other college freshman does now, giving her the nickname then of Jenna and Tonic. What everyone forgets is how well Jenna turned out, she became a teacher, an author, she married during her father’s tenure, and is now a mother and an NBC Today Show correspondent.
The UK Daily Mail highlighted some of the Twitter’s post going around including:
“Did you forget that jenna bush got photographed at the age of 19 knocking someone over at a FRAT party? good lord.”
“Bush twins used fake ID’s to get into bars. & Jenna Bush stuck out tongue at press. Is that “classy?” @DCGopGirl #tcot #UniteBlue.”
“Where were your ignorant comments on the Palin family brawl, the Bush girls (Jenna & Tonic).”
“So Sasha and Malia Obama have no class? Two words: Jenna Bush. #ElizabethLauten.”
The comments descended into a partisan war, with Democrats thinking that just because Lauten insulted a Democratic president’s children, they can do the same the children of Republican presidents. Descending to the same mudslinging is just as reprehensible. Lauten was not the first to comment on the Obama girl’s boredom and embarrassment from their father’s jokes. Mark Shrayber writing on Jezebel wrote a post entitled “Sasha and Malia are Sooooo Done With Their Embarrassing Dad” while David Mack on Buzzfeed wrote an article called “The Obama Girls Could Not Be More Bored By Their Dad’s Jokes Ugh, parents.” Although more polite the articles were just as critical, noting the obvious about the Malia and Sasha’s behavior, still all criticism should be off-limits. They are only teenagers and should not to be punished for their parents choice that trust them into the limelight and scrutiny as children, they will grow up, and nobody knows maybe we might be in the presence of another future president.
- Remarks by President Barack Obama at Pardoning of the National Turkey, Nov. 26, 2014
- President Obama Pardons the National Turkey, Nov, 26, 2014