Commentary: What’s Tackier Than Talking About Malia and Sasha?

President Obama, Sasha Obama and Malia Obama

Commentary: What’s Tackier Than Talking About Malia and Sasha?

Answer: Nothing.

Published December 2, 2014

As you were dreaming of stuffing your face with Thanksgiving dinner, the Obama girls were doing their part for our nation. The day before the holiday, Malia and Sasha had to stand alongside their father as he gave the presidential pardon — cracking jokes the entire time — to a turkey named Cheese. The girls were supposed to look like this was the very best use of their time. Forget friends, forget television, forget anything other than standing in a room full of cameras and reporters and feigning interest in a turkey you’d never met and would never see again. They needed to bring their poker faces to the pardon, but being teenagers, the best they could muster was boredom. Their “Oh dad, are you still talking about that turkey?” side-eye photos and video went viral and the world chuckled, probably reliving all the times they had to suffer through their parents doing something so corny.

One GOP staffer was not impressed or amused. So Elizabeth Lauten went to the Internet and unleashed her fury against the Obama girls, who happen to be 13 and 16 years old. Sure, they’re too young to vote. Of course they have not passed a single law or even given a controversial speech. But apparently by standing in a room, they can commit enough wrongs to warrant an online takedown. So Lauten, who at the time was the communication director for Republican Tennessee Rep. Stephen Fincher, gave them one.

She wrote on Facebook: “Try showing a little class…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…Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at the bar.”

It’s hard to read that without fantasizing about setting that pardoned turkey loose on Lauten. Because, for real? You know you’re talking about children, right? And that you just hinted that they were slutty? Clearly their parents respect the nation enough not to come find you and cuss you out for talking crazy about their daughters.

It is not the Obama girls who should “show some class.” It is Lauten. The obvious point is that you don’t publicly talk about children. If you think it’s alright to do that, you have likely kicked a puppy and made a baby cry on purpose. But beyond basic decency, Lauten thought it was permissible to tell Black girls to know their place and to show some class. Their outfits, the most teen-y of teenwear, somehow made them look “classless” to her. Is it because Black girls, even ones who are raised in the White House, want nothing more than to sit in a bar (a place, ironically, that would not even let them in, since they are children)?

This online tirade did not go over as well as Lauten had planned. More than twenty thousand people on Twitter told her she was crazy and awful. Then she deleted the angry post and replaced it with an apology post about how she had talked to her parents and even to God and come to see the errors of her ways. A few days later, she was forced to resign from her job. Some might see this as a liberal attack against free speech, but many may see it as a good sign that a communication director learned how to communicate. We can only wonder what kind of side-eye the Obama girls would give Lauten should their paths ever cross.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Written by Ayana Byrd


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