Malia Obama and the Gateway Pundit “White House correspondent” behind the “Twinks4Trump” photo series walk into a bar. This might sound like a surreal punchline, but, like so many tragicomic occurrences in the age of Trump, it’s a real thing that actually happened.
On March 26, the far-right, conspiracy-mongering political blog The Gateway Pundit published an article entitled “Privileged Party Girl Malia Obama FREAKS OUT & Accosts White House Correspondent Lucian Wintrich and Exclusive NY Lounge.” The subsequent anti-Malia screed is as convoluted and poorly edited as that headline would suggest, but after a close reading that The Gateway Pundit certainly does not deserve, we can start to suss out some facts: Malia Obama, an 18-year-old soon-to-be college freshman, spent a recent Saturday night at the Parlor club in SoHo. Lucian Wintrich, a conservative reporter who infamously organized the first pro-Trump art show, was also in attendance.
According to The Gateway Pundit’s obviously biased article, “Multiple witnesses watched as Malia Obama, Obama’s oldest daughter, ran up to Wintrich with the intent of stirring up controversy.” Later on, it’s revealed that, “Wintrich attempted to snap a picture of Malia before she ran up to him furious.” Wintrich alleges that the interaction culminated in Obama exclaiming, “I think you’re disgusting,” before being led away by her security team. It also seems that Wintrich and his buddies were subsequently kicked out of the club—or totally owned by a teenager.
Naturally, The Gateway Pundit portrays this interaction as a classic tale of lefty girls gone wild. Buzzwords like “privilege,” “entitlement” and even the “audacity of confrontation”—yes, that’s a direct quote—collude to paint a picture of a spoiled, unhinged brat. In fact, it seems like Obama was having a reasonable reaction to being spied on and photographed by a man who hates her father. The only real leg that Wintrich has to stand on here is the fact that an 18-year-old shouldn’t have been in a 21-and-over club. Then again, some might say that a reporter whose outlet deals in alt-right hoaxes and Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories shouldn’t be in the White House Briefing Room.
In 2017, drunken verbal altercations between liberals and Trump supporters are quickly becoming a nightlife staple. But of course, when Malia Obama gets involved, it becomes an opportunity for conservative bottom-feeders to take one last dig at the former first family. Shady outlets like the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer quickly got in on the action with headlines like “Obama’s Teenage Daughter Reportedly Drunk and Looking to Fight at NYC Nightclub.” Coverage spanned from run-of-the-mill judgmental—allusions to Obama’s history of partying and doing drugs—to straight-up racist and cruel. The Daily Stormer even managed to sprinkle in some anti-Semitism, going after the owner of the Parlor and calling him a “filthy rich” Jew.
To be fair, most articles fawn over Malia Obama. Even confusing headlines like “Malia Obama Channels Rihanna for Her First Day of Work”—no she didn’t, and that would be highly unprofessional—are probably meant as compliments. Like her mom Michelle before her, Malia is already being celebrated as a queen of high-low fashion, except instead of J. Crew and Jason Wu, it’s Urban Outfitters and Alexander Wang.
But the press hasn’t always been so kind to the Harvard-bound Obama.
Back in August 2016, Radar Online posted a video of Obama and her friends smoking what appears to be a joint at Lollapalooza. Remembering the ensuing controversy is enough to make you nostalgic for the days when America’s first family’s most concerning ties were to THC. After all, what’s a little music festival reefer madness when compared to nepotism, conflicts of interest, and putting Jared freaking Kushner in charge of the Middle East? Barack Obama, who has written about smoking pot and using “a little blow” in college, was probably more disturbed by the fact that his daughter appeared to be enjoying a Mac Miller concert.
After getting thoroughly narc’d on by more or less every website on the internet, Malia handled her outing with humor and poise. A few weeks later, she was photographed sporting a “smoking kills” T-shirt, clearly poking fun at her casual drug use and the entire world’s subsequent hissy fit (by the way, that’s what it means to channel Rihanna).
Since leaving the White House, it seems like the popular demand for all things Obamas has only increased. After flipping through a spread of Donald Trump Jr. in flannel, you’re going to want to cleanse your palate with some pictures of Malia Obama in skinny jeans (a nice, long shower couldn’t hurt either). Still, this all-consuming need to see pictures of the Obama family all normal, cool, and not spray-tanned is unsustainable. The other day, Malia Obama ruled an entire news cycle when she went for a walk with a friend. Seriously, that’s it. This distinct lack of substance didn’t stop media outlets from conjuring up an entire epic, beginning with romance fantasies, followed by extensive photographic substance, only to conclude with the outing of Obama’s co-ambulator as Rob Franklin, a 23-year-old Stanford graduate and platonic buddy.
The Trump-sympathetic Daily Mail is one of the worst offenders when it comes to 24/7 Malia Obama coverage. They were all over the Rob Franklin non-story, and always manage to stretch out meager content with a collection of tried-and-true clickbait-y, sex-shaming tropes. Take a recent article published in the wake of Franklin-gate: “Malia Obama, 18, dines out with a friend at trendy Manhattan bar... just one night after being spotted with 23-year-old Stanford graduate.” It continues, “Malia Obama has been spotted out in New York City for the second night in a row… It comes after Malia sparked questions about her love life on Wednesday, when she was pictured taking a night-time stroll with a mystery man.” Between citing a “mystery man” instead of a platonic friend and describing dinner at a restaurant as the tail-end of a nightlife binger, the Daily Mail is deliberately conjuring up a promiscuous party girl. If this is the treatment Obama gets for going outside and eating food, just imagine how claustrophobic the coverage will become if she and a “mystery man” actually start going steady.
Once they make the jump from minors to full-fledged adults, presidential offspring are more or less fair game. But there’s still something unnatural about the internet salivating for sexy deets after one little walk in SoHo. After all, it’s not like Malia is pulling a Bush daughter and breaking the law. For evidence that even sympathetic Malia Obama coverage has gone too far, look no further than this convenient gallery of every single one of Malia Obama’s internship looks, courtesy of Hollywood Life. If there’s anything worse than being photographed first thing in the morning, it’s getting photographed first thing in the morning every single day and then seeing the pictures in Page Six. For most celebrities, getting caught by the paps in an unflattering look or “fresh face” (that’s code for “why aren’t you wearing makeup?”) is an unwelcome, but hopefully rare occurrence. Not so for Obama, who, per her position on the lowest rung of the Weinstein Company totem pole, has to show up at the same place at the same time every morning, facing the same photographers day in and day out.
Interning in New York City is a demanding experience with its own dress code: dark colors to help you blend in, comfortable shoes for coffee runs, and a thick layer of concealer to mask that “I sleep six hours a night and make minimum wage” look. No wonder, as Who What Wear kindly pointed out, “Malia Obama Wears These Boots to Her Internship Every Day.” The girl already has a job—now she has to entertain the masses with her footwear, too?
It’s crucial to remember that Malia Obama, while certainly a public figure, never sought fame or celebrity. Barack and Michelle knew what they were getting into—Sasha and Malia, on the other hand, hardly gave informed consent to being photographed and gossiped about indefinitely. And while Barack and Michelle are off making that good memoir money—not to mention getting some much-needed island time—Malia’s the one who’s facing the daily fashion police.
Ever since Trump took office and everything went to shit, there’s been a growing sense that Barack Obama may have been one of the best we’ve ever had. The idea that the Obamas are our exes—glowing, relaxed, and better off without us—has been floating around the internet ever since we saw Barack living it up on a jet ski. No one likes opening their computer to see the man who left them on vacation with Richard Branson or getting lunch with Bono. Looking at the Obamas eating delicious food in fabulous outfits is like going down an Instagram rabbit hole you know will only hurt you. Still, in this case, “It’s not you, it’s me” really does ring true. As a country that elected a former Apprentice host, we have no one to blame but ourselves. The Obamas didn’t dump us—we betrayed them. We made Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States, hand his job over to the candidate who was endorsed by the KKK.
As for Sasha and Malia, they had to witness the election of a man who spent years insisting that their dad wasn’t born in America. Now, just like the rest of us, they wake up every morning to a Donald Trump presidency. And the only thing that could make that daily realization worse is knowing that the paparazzi are always watching.