The White House campaign to destroy the credibility of Jodi Kantor's new book The Obamas added a tinge of racial angst Wednesday morning, when First Lady Michelle Obama appeared on CBS This Morning denouncing her portrayal as an "angry black woman."
"Who can write about how I feel? What third person can tell me about how I feel?" she told co-host and reliable media confidante Gayle King. "I guess it's more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here, a strong woman. But that's been an image that people have tried to paint of me since the day that Barack announced, that I'm some angry black woman."
Kantor's book, which largely portrays the first lady in an admiring light according to reviews, spotlights a series of gossipy conflicts the first lady allegedly had with West Wing staffers including then chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel and then-press secretary Robert Gibbs. This morning, the first lady rejected Kantor's claims that she went through back channels to voice her criticisms with West Wing staffers, noting she "never had a cross word" with Emanuel. "I don't have conversations with my husband's staff. I don't go to the meetings," she said. "I do care deeply about my husband. I am his biggest ally. I am one of his biggest confidantes, 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."
The push back against the book follows statements by White House officials condemning the book as an “over dramatization of old news” based merely on Kantor's "own opinions." It also follows a death-by-a-thousand-cuts campaign, by whom we can't say, to disgrace the book by pointing out a variety of relatively minor fact errors in the book. Those have included Kantor's placement of two events in the wrong month, inaccurately describing the color of one of Michelle Obama's floral dresses and misrepresenting a facial expression President Obama made two years ago.
Considering how the book paints a largely positive portrait of the first lady, the White House's full-scale push back against the book is rather puzzling. To this day, the White House hasn't been able to dispute the meatier bits of reporting in the book. (The most widely-cited piece of gossip, Gibbs's testy exchange with Valerie Jarrett, was confirmed by Obama adviser David Axelrod earlier this week.) If it couldn't stomach a somewhat gossipy portrayal of East and West Wing tensions, it probably shouldn't have given Kantor access to White House officials. Though the White House hasn't copped to doing this, a source familiar with the book's reporting process tells us Kantor was given access to a slew of East Wing staffers including Melissa Winter, Susan Sher, Jocelyn Frye, Katie McCormack Lelyveld and William Allman who are all quoted in the book. The White House made this bed. It should probably sleep in it.