At the annual White House Thanksgiving ceremony in Washington conducted to pardon a turkey, Sasha Obama, 13, and Malia Obama, 16, behaved like classic teenagers: They rolled their eyes and fidgeted nervously. While most media outlets found their disdain for the yearly presidential turkey pardoning amusing and indicative of ordinary teenage behavior, Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tennessee, took to Facebook to call the teenagers “classless” and dressed for a “bar,” Gawker reported. After receiving a barrage of criticism, Lauten issued an apology.
In Lauten’s Facebook post, presented as an open letter to the Obama teens, she wrote:
“Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.”
The GOP staffer went on to criticize them for their dress, writing, “Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar.”
Yesha Callahan, a writer for the Root, observed on Twitter:
— Yesha (@YeshaCallahan) November 28, 2014
Erin Donnelly of Refinery29 even accused Lauten of “slutshaming” the president’s daughters. Slutshaming is a term used by feminist blogs such as Jezebel to refer to the denigration of young girls, teens and women for the way they dress or behave, especially if that dress or behavior is deemed sexual or provocative.
Twitter user geekgirl read the slam as racist:
Only in America can a black man become the leader of the free world and still be called a poor role model for his children. #elizabethlauten
— geekgirl (@ggadventures) November 29, 2014
Lauten apologized in a Facebook post Friday. Since then, the post has either been made private or taken down.
“I reacted to an article and quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager,” Lauten wrote. “After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents and re-reading my words online, I can see more clearly how hurtful my words were. Please know that these judgmental feelings truly have no pace in my heart. Furthermore, I’d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words, and pledge to learn and grow (and I assure you I have) from this experience.”