Jacquelyn Martin/AP
President Barack Obama gestures that his daughters Sasha and Malia would rather pass on touching "Cheese," the turkey being "pardoned" at a ceremony at the White House the day before Thanksgiving.

Elizabeth Lauten: GOP staffer who slammed Malia and Sasha Obama resigns

When first daughters Malia and Sasha Obama acted like teenagers at the White House Thanksgiving turkey pardoning ceremony, it somehow became a big deal on social media. Should children of the president ever be political targets?

[Updated Monday, Dec. 1 at 2:30 pm] Elizabeth Lauten, the Republican political staffer who criticized Malia and Sasha Obama’s demeanor and dress at the White House Thanksgiving turkey pardoning ceremony last week, has resigned.

Ms. Lauten, whose Facebook posting had slammed the first daughters – and their parents – later apologized online for her “hurtful words” and “judgmental feelings” which, she wrote, “truly have no pace in my heart.”

Lauten, communications director for US Rep. Stephen  Fincher, (R) Tennessee, resigned Monday, according to several news sources.

Here’s the original Monitor story posted Sunday:

You never know how the children of US presidents will turn out. One named “Adams” followed his father to the White House. “Bush” too. Others have been, shall we say, less distinguished.

But if the presidential children are very young during those years when Dad (or one day, perhaps, Mom) works downstairs in the Oval Office, then they are supposed to be off-limits to snide political commentary. They are, after all, prisoners in a public fishbowl over which they had no say.

Sen. John McCain found that out when he had to apologize for a particularly vile joke he made about a very young Chelsea Clinton involving then-first lady Hillary Clinton and then-Attorney General Janet Reno.

It happened again over the Thanksgiving weekend when an until-now relatively unknown political staffer went public (on Facebook, of course) with a slam at first daughters Malia and Sasha Obama.

The scene was set when the President – in this case a prisoner of seasonal commerce and tradition himself – granted the annual obligatory pardon for a turkey, which had been presented as if it was the high point of their lives by a couple of grinning turkey wranglers.

Obama did his duty, as all presidents do, keeping it light, trying to be funny about a large, clueless bird named “Cheese,” whose relatives were destined for slaughter and consumption by carnivores.

“I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked-about executive action this month. Today, I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority,” Obama quipped. “I know some will call this amnesty, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of turkey to go around.”

Get it? “Executive action ... amnesty?” A little joke about immigration?

Standing nearby were first daughters Malia and Sasha Obama, teenagers acting predictably when Dad makes lame jokes and even asks if they want to pet “Cheese.” Which is to say, with that unique teen combination of boredom, embarrassment, and horror.

That was just too much for some conservative commentators, who felt the need to weigh in – not only on the girls’ turkey response but on their appearance.

“I don’t think you would have ever seen the Bush daughters in dresses that short. Class is completely absent from this White House,” sniffed Amanda Shea at a web site called “Mad World News,” which describes itself as “firmly devoted to bringing you the truth and the stories that the mainstream media ignores.”

But it was Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for US Rep. Stephen Fincher, (R) of Tennessee, who has gotten the most attention.

On Facebook she wrote:

“Dear Sasha and Malia, I get your both in those awful teen years but you're a 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. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot in a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, White House events.”

Social media went nuts, some of those posting accused Ms. Lauten of racism or of “slut-shaming” the girls for their short skirts. #FireElizabethLauten became an instant Twitter hashtag.

Rep. Fincher did not fire Lauten, but one imagines that they might have had a little chat. By Friday, Lauten had posted again on Facebook.

“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,” she 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.”

Isn't it interesting that she consulted Mom and Dad.

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