Politics



January 11, 2012, 10:13 am

First Lady Brushes Off Book’s Portrayal

Michelle Obama dismissed a new book’s portrayal of her role as first lady, saying it played off an image of her as “some angry black woman” and insisting that she had played little role, at least directly, in the West Wing of the White House.

“I don’t have conversations with my husband’s staff,” she told Gayle King of CBS News in an interview broadcast on Wednesday morning. “I don’t go to the meetings.”

But she described herself as one of President Obama’s “biggest confidants” and said it would not surprise her if, as described by Jodi Kantor of The New York Times in the book “The Obamas,” the president relayed her thoughts to the staff. Sometimes, the book said, the advisers were upset.

Mrs. Obama brushed aside anecdotes from the book telling of friction between her and two former aides, Rahm Emanuel, then the president’s chief of staff, and Robert Gibbs, the former press secretary. (According to the book, she was irritated when Mr. Emanuel put an event in Florida on her schedule without consulting her staff, and Mr. Gibbs blew up during a discussion of his handling of a French book that claimed she had compared living in the White House to hell.)

“Rahm and I have never had a cross word,” she told Ms. King. “He’s a funny guy.”

As to the book’s report that Mr. Gibbs had cursed her during a meeting, she said: “He’s been a good friend and remains so. I’m sure we could go day to day and find things people wish they didn’t say to each other or said. People stumble, people make mistakes.”

Mrs. Obama, who said she had not read the book, grimaced with irritation at some of its portrayals.

“I guess it is more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here, a strong woman and you know, but that’s been an image that people have tried to paint of me since you know the day Barack announced, that I’m some angry black woman,” she said.

“I just try to be me, and my hope is that over time people get to know me, and they get to judge me for me.”

“I love this job,” she said. “It has been a privilege from Day 1. Now there are challenges, with being a mother, and trying to keep your kids sane, and I worry a lot about that. I mean, if there is any anxiety that I feel it’s because I want to be sure that my girls come out of this on the other end whole. But me, Barack, we’re grown-ups, you know; all the ups and downs, you know, we take it on.”

She made no attempt to deny that she influences her husband; no surprise there.

“I do care deeply about my husband,” she said. “I am his biggest ally. I am one of his biggest confidants. But he has dozens of really smart people who surround him. That’s not to say that we don’t have discussions and conversations. That’s not to say that my husband doesn’t know how I feel.”


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