Michelle Obama presents the Oscar for Best Picture (Photo: Pete Souza/White House)
Michelle Obama's appearance during the Academy Awards presentation Sunday night, where she announced the Best Picture winner via satellite from the White House, came as a big surprise to those watching the show. But it comes as no surprise that a number of commentators were displeased with the First Lady's cameo on the show, and have not been shy about voicing their opinions.
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Jennifer Rubin, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post, told NBC News that she believed Mrs. Obama's appearance made both her and her husband "seem small and grasping." Rubin also spoke of the First Lady's frequent presence in the media recently (usually promoting her anti-obesity campaign), saying, "there is a sense of going too far and too much and becoming so ubiquitous that people don't consider you something special." Rubin repeated the point in her column, saying, "It is not enough that President Obama pops up at every sporting event in the nation. Now the first lady feels entitled, with military personnel as props, to intrude on other forms of entertaining (this time for the benefit of the Hollywood glitterati who so lavishly paid for her husband's election)."
Todd Starnes of Fox News also criticized the First Lady, saying, "Tonight was supposed to be about Hollywood -- but Mrs. Obama made it about herself."
Donny Deutsch of MSNBC, generally regarded as a left-leaning news outlet, also had harsh words for Mrs. Obama, describing her as "an uninvited guest" and went on to say, "the tone of it -- there was almost a monarch quality ... There was an elitist flavor to it ... I just thought it was very, very tone deaf and I'm just surprised they did it."
And right wing pundit Bill O'Reilly attacked Mrs. Obama, calling her appearance "Hollywood left boosterism," and suggesting it was beneath the dignity of the First Lady, adding, "Laura Bush would never at any time have introduced any award." O'Reilly failed to mention that Mrs. Bush, while never a presenter, did record an appearance for the 2002 Academy Awards, in which she (along with a number of other public figures) spoke about her love of movies and what they meant to her. Ronald Reagan also made an appearance via videotape on the 1980 Oscar telecast, a year before he was elected president.
While the White House hasn't addressed the controversy directly, Kristina Schake, Mrs. Obama's communications director, released a statement confirming that the producers of the Oscar program approached the First Lady about appearing, not vice versa.
"The Academy Awards approached the first lady about being a part of the ceremony," Schake said. "As a movie lover, she was honored to present the award and celebrate the artists who inspire us all - especially our young people -- with their passion, skill and imagination."