Sheer nonsense: Carney busts lingerie story

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The report by a British newspaper that the first lady accompanied the queen of Qatar on a $50,000 lingerie shopping spree is false, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday.

Carney, however, declined to offer any evidence of his denial, simply insisting that the British press can’t be trusted.

“At least when I was a reporter, the standard for British tabloid reporting was the assumption that it was false, and in this case, it was utterly false, and it is irresponsible for an American news organization to repeat the story, even allowing evidence that [a story] could be true,” Carney told The Daily Caller at the midday press briefing.

When asked for evidence, Carney said, “I’m not going to going there. It is false.”

The Telegraph is a non-tabloid, established newspaper in England. Its article did not include provide the date of the shopping spree, but did say the store’s investors are hoping to open more stores in the United States. According to the article, “their purchases contributed to a market-spanking 12.5 percent lift in sales.” The Madison Avenue store — Agent Provocateur — caters to the Hollywood elite and is known for steep prices on risque lingerie.

Carney’s stonewall comes only a week after White House officials refused to reveal the price paid by the first lady for the dress she worse at the Jan. 24 State of the Union, and refused to give details on a 2009 Halloween bash in the White House that was orchestrated by Hollywood director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp.

The White House told Politico early on Monday that the lingerie claim was false. The quick denial underlines its desire to downplay media discussion of the story during an election year when one of Obama’s central campaign strategies is to portray Gov. Mitt Romney as an out-of-touch elitist.

However, there is significant public interest in the first lady’s spending choices. For example, numerous Americans have read Internet-carried news reports about the cost of the first lady’s vacations or the expensive clothes that she has worn while attending community service events.

Carney’s request that his denial of the tabloid articles be taken on faith comes after Democrats pounced on former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for his purchase of jewelry at Tiffany’s.

For example, the New York Times quoted Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist, as saying Gingrich’s purchases “plays into a prevailing story line about [his] lack of discipline and being reckless, which has been a consistent part of his political and public life.” Time Magazine also joined in, posting an online show of Gingrich’s wife wearing jewelry.

Democrats also went after Romney for offering a $10,000 bet to Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a Republican debate in Iowa. A December video released by the Democratic National Committee tagged Romney’s bet as one of the “Top 10 Greatest GOP Moments of 2011.”

Obama campaign staffers have worked to paint Romney as an out-of-touch elitist, insisting for months that he prove his bona fides by releasing the details of his tax reports. Democrats have also insisted that Romney explain the contents of a Swiss bank account he held until 2010. (RELATED: Scarborough: Romney’s wealth isn’t exceptional; the ammunition he’s given Obama is)

Obama has stayed aloof from his deputies’ attacks, although he has repeatedly urged that all Americans be treated by the same rules.

“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” he said, “or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

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