Attack the First Daughters and Lose Your Job: Lessons in How Not to be a Communications Professional

GOP staffer resigns after attacking Malia and Sasha Obama on Facebook, GOP staffer likens Malia and Sasha's outfits as ones for barhoppingGOP communications staffer Elizabeth Lauten has resigned following this weekend’s media firestorm after going all snarky on Malia and Sasha Obama for their choice of outfits at the annual White House Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon.

The Thanksgiving side dishes hit the fan when her snark-filled missive became public. Lauten quickly apologized for her bad judgment, but it wasn’t enough to save her job; she “resigned” when stories about Lauten’s disdain for the First Teens’ attire and apparent attitude during their dad’s turkey pardoning moment:

“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. 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 at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.”

Odds are it wasn’t Lauten’s decision to “resign” for what she wrote — that sort of announcement is right up there with people who leave a job to “spend more time with their family.” As a former spokesperson for a federal agency myself, I’m betting she was given a deadline to leave on her own or be forced out, because it should be a firing offense for a Washington, D.C. political communications professional not to anticipate the coming firestorm when you try to shame the children of a president for something that all teens do — dress and act like teenagers.

I’m guessing that Lauten doesn’t have teenage daughters at home or she would know that not only was their attire pretty standard, but pretty reserved, as well. Everything was covered, tights were being worn under that short skirt, and, speaking as the mother of a teen daughter, there’s only so far you can go, even at the White House, in telling a teen girl what she ought to be wearing.  But I digress.

All this leaves me wondering — what could have ticked Lauten off so much over a wardrobe choice to make her take to a public Facebook page? Maybe one too many pre-Thanksgiving cocktails? Sleep deprivation? Who knows, but she clearly forgot the number one rule of political communications — don’t say or write anything that could even remotely come back to bite you in the a$$. Regardless of party affiliation, not making snide remarks about kids who live in the White House is a pretty obvious one. After all, we live in an era of the Google Alert. It doesn’t take much forethought to know that anything publicly written about Malia and Sasha is going to land in someone’s inbox and find it’s way to a broader audience.
I’m sure Lauten isn’t a bad person and this was just a moment of supremely bad judgment. But it cost her her job and it’s probably going to cost her a career as a professional in the world of communications. I hope she has a back-up plan, because it’s pretty doubtful she’ll ever eat lunch in this town as a communications person again.
Joanne Bamberger is an independent journalist and journalism entrepreneur who is also the author of the book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. She is the founder and publisher of the The Broad Side. Joanne is at work on a forthcoming anthology about Hillary Clinton. You can find Joanne on Twitter at @jlcbamberger. Also, follow The Broad Side on Twitter at @The_Broad_Side and on Facebook!
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Image via Us Magazine

  • Lisse

    Well, she certainly communicated the position of the GOP – tearing down the President at all costs.

  • George L. Lyon, Jr.

    I’m sorry. The kids are not immune to criticism in this instance. Sure leave the family’s out of it is a well respected tradition. But Obama put them in the limelight in this instance, so their sneering attitude (making faces) is fair game. As to how their dressed, who cares. They should have stood there and been respectful or have not been there at all. Nobody lost their job commenting on the antics of the Bush twins. Just another example of double standards re Republicans and Democrats.

    • Clearly you are on the side of Lauten, but the Democrats had nothing to do with her “resignation.” And I suspect if any Democratic communications operative have done the same with any GOP kids, they would have been out of a job, as well.

      • George L. Lyon, Jr.

        Did not say the democrats had anything to do with it. As to your other speculation, HA HA HA. That’s a good one. Remember when a democratic staffer leaked Clarence Thomas’s FBI file, remember that investigation. Oh, no, because there wasn’t one. (And BTW I know who did it since I was dating a democrat staffer at the time). The democrats knew who leaked it and did nothing about it despite that it was a crime. Double standard.

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