I’m Old Enough To Remember When Making Fun Of Our President’s Daughter Would Ruin Your Life

Benny Johnson Columnist, Viral Politics
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I was in the room at the White House in 2014 during the infamous Obama daughters’ fashion-gate. I wrote about it previously.

The Obama daughters walked into the room with their father to take part in the strangest of political traditions, the turkey pardon.

The President’s daughters seem to be private people not very comfortable in the harsh spotlight which shines on their father day-in-and-day-out. As the three members of the First Family entered the ballroom where the pardoning would take place, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, the First Daughters are dressed pretty casually. Good for them.” However, no matter what I privately thought about the Obama daughters at the occasion, I was not going to tweet, post or print it, ever. Even someone like myself, who came into this profession with a very non-traditional journalistic background, knows the cardinal rule of decent, human reporting: Do not ridicule a politician’s children.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The morning after the uneventful pardoning, my news feed began blowing up with stories about a GOP hill staffer named Elizabeth Lauten, who worked for a backbencher congressman. She decided to criticize the Obama daughters on her Facebook page. Lauten attacked their fashion choices, writing in part, “Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.”

Her post made the media world go apoplectic. It began a 72 hour outrage cycle. Lauten was called racist, bigoted and insensitive. The cultural zeitgeist would not be satisfied unless it received due punishment for the crime. Lauten was of course fired, even though she apologized the same day.

Her political career was ruined forever.

As I wrote at the time, “In a city where image is everything, this is about the worst thing that can happen to a person. To this day, Lauten has found it impossible to get re-hired in the public sector. The media got its scalp and the precedent was set: Do not attack a President’s children.”

Since then, the cultural paradigm has shifted.


Because the family currently residing in the White House has the last name “Trump” the rule book has been thrown out.

This week, TBS comedian Samantha Bee called the daughter of the president a “c**t.” She did not do it in a private chatroom or on social media, she did it before a studio audience and broadcast it to millions on television. Not only that, she had her writers, producers, lawyers, directors, executives, and an entire applauding studio audience approve of her comments before airing them to the world.

Hundreds of people said, “Yes, call the president’s daughter a c**t. That’s great.” After a tiny apology, Samantha Bee still gets to keep her show.

Now, you may say, “Ivanka is in the public eye. She is a member of the administration. She is an adult.”

But this is just the latest in the series of despicable attacks on the first family and their children. Don’t forget that 11-year-old Barron Trump was called “autistic,” a “homeschool shooter,” and accused of animal mutilation. And this happened to Barron just days into the administration.

Professional consequences? There were very few. For Samantha Bee, all she had to do was shrug off a half-hearted apology and she’s good. No consequences. Carry on.

Times have changed. There is a double standard. And conservatives are sick of it.