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Email: "1st Lady Needs Help!!"

October 07, 2009 3:34 pm ET

The following email has been widely forwarded and has been reposted numerous times on conservative blogs.  Media Matters Action Network has written a response to the text below.  Please feel free to copy and paste it and send to your friends.

1st Lady Needs Help!!

[note - all mistakes below are original to the text]

Response

Wow.  It would be so nice to have a staff of people to handle all the details of life, wouldn't it? 

But whoever sent this to you (and whoever wrote it in the first place) is wrong.  Are you familiar with FactCheck.org?  It's this great website that checks both Democrats and Republicans and they looked into Mrs. Obama's staff because someone sent them this email too.

It turns out that "according to the 2009 White House report to Congress, there are 16 people with a title specifically indicating they work for Michelle Obama's office. In other words, there are 16 people with 'first lady' somewhere in their title, such as Jocelyn Frye, deputy assistant to the president and director of policy and projects for the first lady."

The site also says that Michelle Obama's press secretary (Katie McCormick Lelyveld) told them "that Michelle Obama's staff was actually no different than that of her predecessor, Laura Bush. '[W]e have exactly the same staff number as Mrs. Bush and our office organization reflects a similar staffing model, so insinuations otherwise are wrong,' she said. Lelyveld said that the White House's 'personnel records indicate' that there were 24 staffers for Laura Bush at some point. We were able to verify at least 18 staffers for Laura Bush, as of June 30, 2008, via the 2008 White House staff list published in The Washington Post's White House Watch column. Sixteen people were specifically referred to as a 'first lady' staffer, and Amy Zantzinger and Dorothy Thornton served as White House social secretary and deputy social secretary, respectively. It's possible that someone with the title of 'staff assistant' was assigned to the Office of First Lady as well, as is the case with Michelle Obama's staff."

Mrs. Bush had 24 people working for her at one time!  Mrs. Obama's staff list isn't unprecedented.

You can read the whole article here: http://m.factcheck.org/2009/08/michelle-obamas-staff/

I also found a news article on Yahoo that talked about why First Ladies need a staff -

"So just what does a staff of 24 do for Michelle Obama? Well, for starters there are the 32,000 pieces of mail that have flooded the East Wing since Michelle Obama took occupancy in January, but the main official duty of the first lady is to tend to the care and maintenance of the White House and its seemingly endless social functions. Of course some first ladies, like Michelle Obama, maintain a higher profile than others, and with that comes the need for people to help write speeches, arrange travel and security details, handle media inquiries, etc. About the myriad tasks and responsibilities handled by White House staffers, Anita McBride, Laura Bush's former chief of staff, recently said, 'There's never enough people to do the amount of work that has to get done.'"

If you want to read the rest of the article, it's here - http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_pl944

Seeing that initial list of staff people was a little shocking, but Mrs. Obama is a busy woman with more on her plate than most people.  No person could be expected to manage all the details of international travel, making speeches and appearances, literally tons of mail, and the planning of official events, all on top of being a wife and mother as well.

If you think about the staff list as the staff list of a company, no one's salary is outrageous.  You might not know it, but people who work at the White House work 60-70 hours a week and often on weekends.  It's not like they've got an easy or normal job.

I also thought it was funny that this email mocks the number of people employed at the White House during the "Great Recession."  I mean, are they pushing for more people to be laid off? 

Anyway, I think it's fine if you don't agree with everything President Obama is doing - but it would be better if you disagreed with the truth instead of rumors like this.

Talk to you soon.



 


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