Spin Cycle

02.26.13

Michelle Obama Faces Oscars Backlash

Conservatives say the first lady intruded on event

Michelle Obama is suddenly dividing the country.

A debate is raging about the propriety of the first lady’s actions.

Why? Because she had the temerity to show up at the Oscars—virtually speaking, that is.

130224-oscar-red-carpet-mobama
Kevin Winter/Getty

Conservatives are grumbling about Michelle, from the White House, announcing the Best Picture award for Argo—possibly because it gives them a chance to slam the Obamas, Ben Affleck and Hollywood in a single paragraph.

“It is not enough that President Obama pops up at every sporting event in the nation,” writes Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s conservative blogger. “Now the first lady feels entitled, with military personnel as props, to intrude on other forms of entertaining (this time for the benefit of the Hollywood glitterati who so lavishly paid for her husband’s election)…It makes both the president and the first lady seem small and grasping.”

That’s a little harsh. For most viewers—at least those who stayed up that late—it was fun and novel to see Michelle Obama beam in by satellite (though I could have done without using the servicemen as props). The spectacle, arranged by movie mogul and White House pal Harvey Weinstein, was orchestrated with all the secrecy of the CIA hostage rescue mission in Argo.

It’s not just folks on the right who are disgruntled. Donny Deutsch, the advertising executive and NBC contributor, said on Today: “You are putting politics, like it or not, in a space that people are not necessarily invited into their home for.”

It’s true that the first lady has been just this side of inescapable. She’s done mom dancing with Jimmy Fallon, cut a pair of videos with Big Bird and just sat down with Robin Roberts to talk about her anti-obesity campaign. And she's doing fitness-related events this week with Rachael Ray and Serena Williams.

Video screenshot

Michelle Obama has become the First Lady of Fun!

It does seem these days that some of her appearances are less tied to any political agenda, which may be the secret to her popularity. And Obama runs the risk of overexposure.

The first lady’s critics may be motivated by a distaste for her husband (just as liberals might have found it grating had Laura Bush popped up on program after program). They should resume regular breathing. But the first lady may also want to think about picking her spots.