Fox News' Brian Wilson stated that Michelle Obama "was portrayed in some quarters as an angry woman" and "as some type of radical" during the presidential campaign. But Wilson did not acknowledge that Fox News was among those who portrayed her as "angry" and "radical."
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On the April 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report, reporter Brian Wilson stated that while "three-quarters of Americans now find favor with how Michelle Obama is handling the job of first lady ... there were moments in the early going where it looked like it might be a rough journey for Michelle Obama." Wilson added, "[S]he was portrayed in some quarters as an angry woman. A satirical New Yorker cover depicted her as some type of radical." But at no point during his report did Wilson acknowledge that prominent members of Fox News were among those who portrayed Obama as "an angry woman" or as a "radical" during the 2008 presidential campaign.
For instance, during the August 25, 2008, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor and NPR news analyst Juan Williams, referring to Michelle Obama's then-upcoming speech at the Democratic National Convention, asserted: "Well, she's got to be herself, but I do not think she can go for it all out in terms of this kind of militant anger that she sometimes uses." Williams gave no examples of what he claimed to be "this kind of militant anger" that Michelle Obama "sometimes uses." Similarly, on the September 16, 2008, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly said of Michelle Obama: "Now I have a lot of people who call me on the radio and say she looks angry. And I have to say there's some validity to that. She looks like an angry woman."
In addition, several Fox News hosts and contributors questioned Michelle Obama's patriotism or attitude toward race, pointing to things she has written and said -- including her February 18, 2008, comment, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country," which Wilson aired during his report. Media Matters for America has documented the following examples:
- During Fox News' August 25, 2008, coverage of the Democratic National Convention, co-anchor Megyn Kelly speculated that changing some of the words in Michelle Obama's speech could provide "fodder" for the critics of then-candidate Barack Obama. Noting that, in her speech, Michelle Obama said, "The world as it is just won't do," Kelly stated: "If you replace 'world' with 'country', you are back to the same debate, arguably, that you have been having about Michelle Obama's feelings about the country. Did she give her critics any fodder with that comment?"
- During the February 19, 2008, edition of Fox News' America's Pulse, referring to Michelle Obama's "proud of my country" remarks, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume said: "Well, it means that she is a liberal, and maybe an arch-liberal. And it raises questions about whether [then-Sen. Barack Obama] agrees with her." Hume later stated, "But I think this was something that she kind of thinks," adding, "[T]here is this feeling, and it has affected Democratic politicians for a long time, that they are kind of embarrassed by patriotism."
- On the February 19, 2008, edition of Fox News' The Big Story, Republican strategist Ralph Reed said of Michelle Obama's "proud of my country" comments: "[I]t plays into a stereotype about the left wing of the Democratic Party, that it blames America first, that they don't see the greatness of America." Then-host John Gibson responded by asking, "Does that mean that President Barack will blame America first?"
- Fox News host Sean Hannity repeatedly distorted Michelle Obama's 1985 senior thesis from Princeton University, suggesting that she was asserting her own views when she wrote that "[i]t is possible that Black individuals either chose to or felt pressure to come together with other Blacks on campus because of the belief that Blacks must join in solidarity to combat a White oppressor." But as the context of the quote makes clear, she was purporting to document attitudes among black Princeton alumni who attended the school in the '70s and not expressing her own opinions. Hannity employed this distortion at one point to ask: "Do the Obamas have a race problem of their own?"
From the April 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
BAIER: We continue our look at the first 100 days of the Obama presidency by focusing tonight on the first lady. Michelle Obama got off to a somewhat dubious start during the campaign, but there has been something of an image makeover.
Correspondent Brian Wilson has the story.
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WILSON: You may or may not agree with her husband's policies, but as we approach the end of the first 100 days, three-quarters of Americans now find favor with how Michelle Obama is handling the job of first lady.
HEIDI BROWN (Forbes staff writer): She has the star power of the first lady, but she's also someone who comes across as very ordinary.
WILSON: But there were moments in the early going where it looked like it might be a rough journey for Michelle Obama. February 2008 on the campaign trail in Milwaukee, she uttered words she probably wishes she could take back.
MICHELLE OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country.
WILSON: The furor over that comment reverberated for days and she was portrayed in some quarters as an angry woman. A satirical New Yorker cover depicted her as some type of radical.
But there were no other campaign blunders and when her husband took office in January, she began her own campaign to cultivate a positive image. Whether it was hobnobbing with British royalty, breaking ground on the White House vegetable garden, or in her role as first mom and first wife, she found a mix of style and substance that resonated with Americans.
A just-released Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll shows that since the campaign, her favorability rating is up 17 points, and only 16 percent of Americans now view her unfavorably. Her numbers are, in fact, better than her husband's.
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