Michelle Obama Derangement Syndrome: Four Years, 40 Smears

Conservative media figures have spent the past four years smearing, attacking, and hurling insults at Michelle Obama. As the first lady prepares to address the Democratic National Convention, Media Matters details the right-wing media's Michelle Obama derangement syndrome.

Right-Wing Media Attacked Michelle Obama As Unpatriotic

Wash. Times Attempted To Lip-Read First Lady's Whispering To Husband To Claim She Attacked American Flag. In an article which was later picked up by the right-wing blogosphere, Washington Times senior editorial writer for foreign affairs James Robbins speculated that Mrs. Obama “appear[ed] to” whisper to her husband, “all this just for a flag” during the 9-11 Memorial ceremony in New York City. From the September 13, 2011, piece:

The internet was buzzing Tuesday night with video of First Lady Michelle Obama apparently showing extreme disrespect to the American flag at a ceremony in honor of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. As police and firefighters fold the flag to the sound of marching bagpipers, a skeptical looking Mrs. Obama leans to her husband and appears to say, “all this just for a flag.” She then purses her lips and shakes her head slightly as Mr. Obama nods.  [The Washington Times, 9/13/11, via Media Matters]

O'Reilly Didn't “Want To Go On A Lynching Party Against Michelle Obama” Unless “Evidence” Showed She Felt America “Is A Bad Country.” After a listener of his radio show said that according to “a friend who had knowledge of her,” Michelle Obama " 'is a very angry,' her word was 'militant woman,' " Fox News' Bill O'Reilly later stated: “I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how she really feels -- that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever -- then that's legit. We'll track it down.” [Westwood One, The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 2/19/08, via Media Matters]

Hannity Repeatedly Attempted To Paint Mrs. Obama As Unpatriotic By Distorting Her Senior Thesis. Fox News' Sean Hannity distorted a passage from Michelle Obama's 1985 Princeton senior thesis to claim that she holds “the belief that blacks must join in solidarity to combat a white oppressor” during several of his February 2008 shows. Hannity ripped the line from its proper context:

As discussed earlier, most respondents were attending Princeton during the 70's, at a time when the Black Power Movement was still influencing the attitudes of many Blacks.

It 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. As the few blacks in a white environment it is understandable that respondents might have felt a need to look out for one another. [Media Matters, 2/29/08]

Fox's Juan Williams Claimed That Michelle Obama's Instinct Is To “Blame America.” Fox News contributor Juan Williams baselessly attacked Michelle Obama, claiming that “her instinct is to start with this 'blame America' ... stuff.” Williams asserted that Michelle Obama's “instinct” is to “blame America” or be “the victim.” Williams also said that she could be a “liabilit[y]” or an “albatross” for President Obama. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 1/26/09]

Fox's Attacks On First Lady Were Not Missed By ABC News. During the February 21, 2010, edition of ABC's World News, correspondent Yunji de Nies noted that Fox “has repeatedly questioned the First Lady's patriotism.” [ABC, World News, 2/21/10]

Limbaugh Claimed Michelle Obama “Is Not Proud Of Her Country Unless She's Getting What She Wants From It.” From the October 1, 2009, edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Now I'm like you, I'm thinking that Michelle Obama needs a little dictionary lesson. Let's not forget this is the woman who is not proud of her country unless she's getting what she wants from it. She said during the campaign the first time she had been proud of her country was when Obama was nominated or done something. So she sacrificed herself to get in a big, luxurious jet, a Boeing 757, to fly to Copenhagen where she is pampered and treated like she were a goddess. Yes, this is a sacrifice. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/1/09]

Beck & Crew Joked About Michelle Obama Not Loving Her Country. On the July 13, 2010, edition of Glenn Beck's radio show, he and his cast spent more than four minutes sarcastically commenting about how much Michelle Obama doesn't love her country. As proof of this, they cited her observation that “stubborn inequality” still exists in the United States and her promotion of healthy eating. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 7/13/10]

Right-Wing Media Attacked Michelle Obama's Efforts To Fight Childhood Obesity

Beck Claimed Michelle Obama's “Let's Move Campaign” Could Lead To Imprisonment For Serving Fries. Following the launch of Mrs. Obama's “Let's Move Campaign” to fight childhood obesity, Glenn Beck said:

BECK: So then what? Well, you're going to have to tax, you're going to have to make it more and more difficult, but when those options don't work, how do you get people to stop eating french fries? Because french fries still beat carrots. What's left? Well now you have to start thinking about punishments. Maybe a fine, maybe even jail! But it always starts with a nudge. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 9/14/10]

Limbaugh Was Not “Surprised” That Michelle Obama Encouraged People To “Get On That Teat.” Disparaging Michelle Obama's promotion of breastfeeding, Limbaugh said that he wasn't surprised to see the first lady “encouraging people to get on that teat.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/21/10]

Fox's Ingraham Directed GOP To Oppose Michelle Obama's Efforts To Fight Childhood Obesity. During a December 14, 2010, appearance on Fox's morning show, right-wing radio talk show host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham urged Republicans to “be more vociferously opposed” to Michelle Obama's ideas, now that she is “clearly in the policy arena” by opposing childhood obesity. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/14/10]

Fox's Tucker Carlson Equated Michelle Obama's “Let's Move” Campaign To Her Raising Your Kids For You “At Gunpoint.” During a debate on the February 15, 2011, edition of Fox's Hannity, Fox contributor Tucker Carlson slammed the First Lady for her “let's move” campaign, asking, “Why would you want to raise your own kids when Michelle Obama will do it for you ... at gunpoint?” [Fox News, Hannity, 2/15/11]

Following A Speech By Mrs. Obama On Food Deserts, Ingraham Commented On Sasha Obama's Build. While playing a clip of Michelle Obama talking about food deserts, Laura Ingraham said, “One Of [Michelle Obama's] daughters apparently is not living in a food desert.” [Talk Radio Network, The Laura Ingraham Show, 4/28/11]

Human Events' Mattera: Michelle Obama Is A “Dietary Dominatrix.” Appearing on Fox Business Network, conservative author and radio host Jason Mattera called Michelle Obama a “dietary dominatrix.” [Fox Business, Follow the Money, 12/6/11, via Media Matters]

Right-Wing Media Attacked First Lady's Body

Andrew Breitbart's Website Published A Cartoon Of An Overweight Michelle Obama Saying “Shut Up And Pass The Bacon!” Taking a cue from Rush Limbaugh's nickname for the first lady -- “Michelle, My Butt” -- one of Andrew Breitbart's websites posted a cartoon of an overweight Michelle Obama eating a plate-full of hamburgers and saying: “Shut up and pass the bacon!” [Big Government, 2/12/11, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Told Michelle Obama She “Had Better Look Like An Ethiopian” To Promote Healthy Eating. Limbaugh attacked Mrs. Obama for advocating fitness and healthy eating: “If you're gonna tell everybody to eat twigs and berries ... you had better look like an Ethiopian.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 2/23/11]

National Review Columnist Suggested Michelle Obama Is Fat. In a column for National Review, David Kahan wrote:

Still, Michelle would have a real shot of slipping into Queen Kapiolani's muumuu collection and making it her own, especially after a few more meals of short ribs in Vail, the calorie count of which is only slightly offset by her incessant finger-wagging at the rest of us. [National Review, 3/15/11, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh: President Obama's Limousine “Weighs Eight Tons Without Michelle In It.” Discussing President Obama's limousine on his radio show, Rush Limbaugh stated that the limousine “weighs eight tons without Michelle in it.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/15/11, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Somehow Turned Libya Discussion Into A Fat Joke About Michelle Obama. Rush Limbaugh accused Sen. John McCain of “butt-kissing” by giving credit to President Obama for the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi, adding, “Whose butt is he kissing with that comment? Obama's? Obama doesn't have a butt. Compared to his wife, he really doesn't have a butt.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show; 10/20/11, via Media Matters]

Right-Wing Media Played Fashion Police For First Lady

Michael Savage Called Michelle Obama “The Worst Dressed First Lady In The History Of The Country.” On his June 25, 2009, radio program, Michael Savage lashed out against the characterization of Michelle Obama as a fashion icon, declaring her “the worst dressed first lady in the history of the country,” and asking, “Why every night a sleeveless dress? What's that all about?” [Talk Radio Network, The Savage Nation, 6/25/09, via Media Matters]

Beck: Michelle Obama's Beach Outfit Was The “Most Marie Antoinette” Yet. During an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Glenn Beck found Mrs. Obama's outfit during a visit to an oil-polluted Gulf beach unacceptable, calling it “the most Marie Antoinette I have seen of anything with Michelle Obama,” and “an outrage.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/16/10, via Media Matters]

Right-Wing Media Claimed Michelle Obama's State Dinner Dress Honored Communist China. The right-wing media attacked Michelle Obama for wearing a red dress to a White House state dinner, suggesting she did so to honor “Commie Red China.” [Media Matters, 1/20/11]

Loesch Guest: “Why Doesn't She Wear Anything That Fits?” Appearing as a guest on CNN contributor Dana Loesch's radio show, commentator Tony Katz said if President Obama actually “liked women he'd buy Michelle Obama better clothes. Why doesn't she wear anything that fits?” [KFTK, The Dana Show, 4/12/12, via Media Matters]

Right-Wing Media Launched Sexist Attacks On First Lady

Wash. Times Called Michelle Obama Campaign Event An “Estrogenfest” And “A Girlie Show.” In a news article, The Washington Times described a 2008 campaign event featuring Michelle Obama as “as much estrogenfest as it was campaign rally.” The article continued: “Even Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm got in on the girlie show as they campaigned together.” [The Washington Times, 7/14/08]

Beck Asked Why Michelle Obama's “Breasts Are All Smushed Up.” On his May 20, 2010, radio program, Beck cited the Drudge Report's sexist attack on Michelle Obama, saying: “She looks positively like she's trying to be some Greek statue. I don't think I've ever seen the First Lady with her -- excuse the expression, but with her breasts all smushed up, I mean what is that? Did you even see that picture, I mean, that's -- what is that?” [Drudge Report; Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 5/20/10, via Media Matters]

Conservative Media Likened “Pampered” Michelle Obama To A “Modern-Day Marie Antoinette.” Right-wing media repeatedly compared First Lady Michelle Obama to Marie Antoinette. This comparison was in part based on the falsehood that the Obama family dog flew on his own “separate aircraft to vacation with them in Maine.” [Media Matters, 8/5/10]

Fox's Malkin Calls Michelle Obama “The Bitter Half Of The Obama Administration.” On Fox News' Hannity, Fox contributor Michelle Malkin said that Michelle Obama has “earned” the designation as “the bitter half of the Obama administration.” [Fox News, Hannity, 5/30/12, via Media Matters]

Right-Wing Media Played The Race Card On Michelle Obama

Fox's Michelle Malkin Called First Lady One Of The President's “Cronies Of Color.” In her book Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin wrote:

But they are still in the minority. And there will be more predictable excuses. As I document in this book, Obama's cronies of color (beginning with his own wife) reach for the race card when their dubious judgment is questioned. And when all else fails, there's always the “I inherited the problem” alibi.

To which I reply: Read the book. Barack Obama owns this cabinet of tax cheats, crooks, and cronies. It is his and his alone. In the era of “new politics,” judge him as you would judge other mere mortals. Judge him not by the company that preceded him. [Media Matters, 8/1/09]

Limbaugh “Speculate[d]” That Michelle Obama Skipped Sen. Robert Byrd's Funeral Because Of Her “Authentic Slave Blood.” From the July 2, 2010, edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: I don't know why Michelle, my belle, is not there. But, as has been said by several Black civil rights leaders, Obama does not have authentic slave blood. But Michelle does, and maybe that's why. We can only speculate. Maybe she's at a skybox at a baseball or football game, who knows. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 7/2/10]

Limbaugh Called First Lady's Trip To Spain “Vacation Affirmative Action.” On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh said:

LIMBAUGH: The liberals in this country, the left, the elite, who are walking around with a collective guilt of 200 some-odd years over our nation's slave past, over our discrimination past, and all of these things, civil rights violations, all of these things, running around -- it's the animating factor of many sports writers by the way, it's the thing that animates them. It's the thing that animates a lot of people on the left.

And Michelle “my belle” Obama is descended from slaves. As the left has pointed -- not me -- as leftist preachers have pointed out, she's got slave blood where Obama himself does not. He's not authentic, she is. Now for years, and years, and years, powerful people have been able to game the system and travel all over the world and have fine meals and fine wine and all of these fine things. It's only fair, and it's only right that members of an abused minority now get their share of the pie. It's like vacation affirmative action. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8/10/10]

Limbaugh: Michelle Obama Was Booed At NASCAR Event Because She Exhibited “Uppity-Ism.” Discussing an appearance by Michelle Obama at a NASCAR event during which she was booed, Rush Limbaugh said that she exhibited “a little bit of uppity-ism” by traveling in a separate plane than her husband to a destination. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/21/11, via Media Matters]

Right-Wing Media Used Jodi Kantor Book To Launch Racially Charged Attacks On Michelle Obama. Following the release of The Obamas by New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor, the right-wing media used a passage from the book to suggest that Michelle Obama has a problem with “white Irish Catholics” wielding power. In fact, the line that was distorted by the right-wing media was not a quote by Obama, but a description by Kantor, and the full context of the quote makes it clear that Obama was referring to entrenched power and political dynasties, not any particular ethnic group. [Media Matters1/10/12]

Right-Wing Media Launched Other Random Attacks On First Lady

Fox Nation Suggested Michelle Obama Stocked Socialism Books In White House Library. Fox Nation and other conservative blogs falsely accused Michelle Obama of “stock[ing] the White House Library with books on socialism.” The books in question have been in the White House library since 1963. [Media Matters, 2/18/10]

Limbaugh Falsely Claimed Taxpayers Funded 60 Luxury Hotel Rooms For Michelle Obama's Vacation. Rush Limbaugh falsely asserted that Michelle Obama took “40 of her best friends and leas[ed] 60 rooms in a 5 star hotel -- paid by you.” In fact, the White House has said the Obamas are paying for personal expenses on the trip, including their lodging. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8/6/11, via Media Matters]

Beck Lied About First Lady's Staff Size To Say She “Is Really Marie Antoinette.” On his radio show, Glenn Beck attacked Michelle Obama for allegedly lavish spending on staffers and parties, saying, “The first lady's office needs 43 people? For what? These people are out of control. It is really Marie Antoinette.” PolitiFact.com checked Beck's claim and found that, in fact, “Michelle Obama has a staff of 25, not 43. ... The size of Michelle Obama's staff is similar to that of her immediate predecessors.” PolitiFact gave Beck its “Pants on Fire” rating. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Glenn Beck Program, 2/25/11, via Media Matters]

Limbaugh Attacked Michelle Obama For Going To Target. When a picture surfaced of Michelle Obama shopping at a Target discount store, Rush Limbaugh said, “It has gotten so bad, they had to send Moochelle out there in a Lady Gaga-type getup. She went shopping at Target.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/30/11, via Media Matters]

Malkin: Obama Went To Target To "Counter The Negative Diva Buzz." In a blog post, Michelle Malkin attacked Michelle Obama for shopping at Target, writing that Obama was “about as 'incognito' as Lady Gaga's outfit at her younger sister's graduation.” Malkin went on to call the first lady “the glamour queen” and further stated that Obama's Target visit was "[t]o counter the negative diva buzz" and that it "[l]ooks like she left the bling at home." [MichelleMalkin.com, 9/29/11, via Media Matters]

Right-Wing Blogs Attacked Michelle Obama Over Appearance On Nickelodeon's iCarly. During a guest appearance by Michelle Obama on the Nickelodeon show iCarly, one of the characters on the show referred to the first lady as “your excellency.” Another character corrected the first, saying, “You don't call her 'your excellency,' ” to which Obama responded, “No, no. I kind of like it.” The Weasel Zippers blog responded to the scripted line by writing: “Queen Michelle On iCarley Confirms What We've All Suspected: 'I Kind Of Like Being Called Your Excellency'...” [Weasel Zippers, 1/3/12]

Right-Wing Blogs Attacked Michelle Obama For Leading Olympic Delegation. Right-wing bloggers attacked Michelle Obama following an announcement that the first lady would be leading the American delegation during the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games, despite the fact that both Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton previously led Olympic delegations. As the AP pointed out, it has “become somewhat of a tradition for first ladies to lead the U.S. delegation.” [Media Matters6/22/12; AP, 3/13/12]

Fox News Twisted Michelle Obama's Comments To Claim She Said Voting For Republicans Would Cause People To “Die From Cancer.” Fox News distorted comments by Michelle Obama at a campaign event in order to claim that she was “insinuating” that “if you elect Mitt Romney, women will die from cancer.” But Obama simply pointed out that Romney's plan to repeal health care reform would increase the number of people without access to health insurance. [Media Matters8/16/12]

Fox's Dobbs: Michelle Obama Is “High Maintenance” From A “Taxpayer Perspective” Because Of Her Vacations. On his Fox Business show, Lou Dobbs said that “when the first lady is living high and taking sixteen -- sixteen! -- vacations, and that's in a period of approximately three and a half years, well, things start to add up. She gets to be, if you'll forgive the expression, from a taxpayer perspective -- certainly, I'm sure, not from her husband's perspective -- high maintenance.” [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 8/9/12, via Media Matters]