January 11, 2012

New book about the Obamas draws “scathing” White House response


Michelle Obama and Rahm Emanuel: They look like they get along fine!

The Obamas, a new book about guess who written by New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor has generated a “scathing” response from the White House because it “includes plenty of juicy infighting,” notes a Politico report.

A Reuters wire story notes White House press secretary Eric Schultz observed that Kantor never spoke to the President nor Michelle Obamafor the book, yet there are plenty of “emotions, thoughts and private moments described in the book … seemingly ascribed to the President and First Lady.” The Reuters story also notes Kantor “hedged” when asked on the Today Show if she’d spoken to the President or First Lady.

Michelle Obama appeared simultaneously on the competition—the CBS This Morning show—and said Kantor’s reports about her meddling and arguing with the President’s team—paticularly former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel—were untrue. According to another Politico report, she said while it was “true that I talk very candidly to my husband about how I feel” because “that’s the kind of relationship we have,” nonetheless she didn’t complain to staff. “I wouldn’t go to Rahm about something that I would talk to my husband about. If I didn’t agree with something, I would talk to my husband about it.”

Meanwhile, BuzzFeed ran a list of alleged factual errors. The reporting has indeed “caused some skepticism among critics,” notes a Time magazine report, which proceeds to wrap up that skepticism (for example, “Such books regard more earnest matters like history, context, and ideas the way a child looks at a plate of Brussels sprouts,” says David Remnick in his New Yorker review.)

Even Kantor’s most positive review couldn’t resist taking her to task for somehow knowing what Michelle Obama was thinking at one point.  (“Cue the groans. What kind of journalist presumes to know Michelle Obama’s mind?”) Still, it was an overwhelmingly positive review (calling the book so “meticulous” it “earned the voice of authority”), and it was the one that counts: Yup, she got a rave in the New York Times.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.