The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hill staffer Elizabeth Lauten resigns after remarks about Obama daughters

Embattled Hill staffer Elizabeth Lauten has resigned amid a backlash over critical remarks she posted on Facebook Friday about President Obama’s daughters.

Lauten, communications director for Rep. Stephen Lee Fincher (R-Tenn.), came under fire over the weekend after posting derogatory remarks about Sasha and Malia Obama regarding their appearance at the president’s annual Turkey pardoning.

“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,” Lauten wrote. “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.”

Lauten confirmed her resignation to The Washington Post on Monday morning.

Several media outlets pointed out that the two girls, ages 16 and 13, appeared bored while their father spoke during Wednesday’s event. The exasperated looks on the pair’s faces were used to gently mock the annual turkey pardon on social media Wednesday and Thursday and drew wry headlines from publications such as USA Today and Gawker.

But Lauten’s comments struck a nerve among critics who accused her of going too far and turning the two girls into political targets. Her original post quickly went viral, inspiring blog posts and tweets condemning her choice of words. She issued an apology on Facebook hours after her initial post.

"When I first posted on Facebook I reacted to an article and I quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager," Lauten wrote Friday. "After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were."

The president and first lady Michelle Obama have aggressively tried to shield the first daughters from the media spotlight during the family’s six years in the White House. The episode has sparked fresh conversation about the sensitive position the two girls are in as teenagers living in the White House.

While the tenor of Lauten’s comments have been widely condemned, top Republican operatives have also criticized the media’s response, suggesting the coverage has been motivated by political bias.

“Children, especially the first daughters, are off limits. While the comments were inappropriate and insensitive, the mainstream media's coverage of this story is appalling,” said Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer in a series of tweets Monday. “In over 20 years in politics I have never seen 1 of the countless inappropriate comments by Democrats ever covered to a faction [sic] of this.”

Baffling as the rant was, particularly coming from a communications director, this wasn't Lauten's first social media blunder. In August Lauten inadvertently posted a highly personal message on Fincher's official twitter account.

“God I love this song. And beach music. AND shagging #pandora,” said the tweet, which was deleted hours later. Lauten explained afterward that she had intended to post the message on her personal Facebook.


Ruth Marcus on "Indigestion over the Obama girls."

She the People decoding teenage fashion, slouches and eye rolls.

Breaking down the backlash.