Even before Iowa Congressman Steve King criticized Sasha and Malia Obama’s spring break trip, the vacation had provided fodder for the far right media. Few people understand that better than Salon.com’s editor-at-large Joan Walsh, who found herself part of the controversy.
Walsh became the target of right-wing media attacks after she weighed in on the issue, criticizing the commentators who were targeting the first daughters. Her major complaint: “For decades it’s been a convention of journalism that you don’t write about the minor children of presidents unless they’re involved in an official capacity. You don’t locate them, you don’t say the specific hotel they’re staying and the Breitbart folks just flouted that convention.”
The decision to break that convention was the primary motivation for a recent article Walsh wrote–which made her, in turn, the focus of right-wing scrutiny for an article she wrote about the Bush daughters more than a decade ago.
Although she says she probably wouldn’t have written the piece with as much “snarkiness” today, she defends the story’s news value. “The actual legal troubles of the Bush twins when they were adults–they were drinking under 21, Jenna Bush was actually violating a law that her dad signed as governor–those are legitimate news stories,” she said. Other major news organizations including USA Today and the Washington Post also published stories about the Bush girls’ partying.
Walsh believes it’s wrong “to just keep ignoring the way that race seems to play into” the way the Obama girls are covered by certain members of the media.
“What those girls get is somehow begrudged when other children were not begrudged their vacations or their Secret Service detail.”
There seems to be “a very different standard for this particular first family,” says Walsh; their predecessors also took vacations during wars and recessions.
“It’s going back to this idea of the ‘uppity Negro,’ isn’t it?” The Cycle host Touré suggested on Thursday’s PoliticsNation, accusing conservative critics of trying to treat the first family like “high-level welfare queens” who are “living it up on our dime.”
Most recently, that attack came from Michele Bachmann, who lambasted President Obama for living “a lifestyle that is one of excess” in her recent CPAC speech that was thoroughly debunked by fact-checkers.