Editor’s note: Elizabeth Lauten resigned on Monday.
Blame the alcohol in the eggnog, delirium from too much stuffing or simply bad judgment for causing Elizabeth Lauten, the communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), to flip out on Facebook over the first daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama.
After reading an article linked on Facebook from the conservative site Mad World News about how the Obama daughters “unleash[ed] their annoyance” at President Barack Obama’s annual (and hokey) pre-Thanksgiving tradition of pardoning turkeys, Lauten was incensed beyond reason.
Several outlets covered the turkey pardon, and many playfully chided Sasha and Malia for giving glimpses of teenage indifference during the press conference: They folded arms, rolled eyes and twiddled thumbs as their dad awkwardly fumbled his way though a not-so-funny speech (that invoked Ben Franklin) about sparing the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese.
The girls’ looks of indifference were familiar to anyone with teenagers or anyone who once was a teenager. Most commenters on stories about the girls’ reactions laughed because while the first daughters’ expressions and body language screamed “over it,” they were also pretty harmless as far as teenagers go. Even the president mentioned that the Washington Post had “questioned the wisdom of the whole turkey pardon tradition,” so it’s not as if the girls were expressing something that no one else was thinking.
But the moment pushed Lauten over the clichéd edge and she straight lost it on her Facebook page:
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 …
Ma’am! Was that a scolding on what constitutes class from the spokeswoman of an elected official as she publicly blasted minors on her Facebook page? Are you behaving with class when you overanalyze and insult teenage girls?
In exchange for a lesson to the Obama girls on class, might I offer Lauten a word about using common sense and professionalism? Perhaps it would have behooved Lauten—a woman with a few years’ experience in social and online media, and who should have expected scrutiny as the communications director for a U.S. congressman—to refrain from attacking the president’s children.
But that snippet wasn’t even the worst part of her rant.
“Your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much,” Lauten continued, “or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.”
Yes, because teenagers who roll their eyes are an indication of bad parents and a lack of proper guidance. This, of course, means everyone’s parents sucked. Should teens in need of guidance look up to Lauten, a grown woman who, again, publicly attacks children on Facebook? Is this a proper role model? You tell me.
Lauten wasn’t done, though.
“Stretch yourself,” she demanded of the Obama girls. “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.”
I don’t know what’s worse here: treating teenagers who act like teenagers as though they’ve committed treason or implying that girls don’t deserve respect because of the length of their skirts. Way to uphold rape culture, Lauten. And why is she even discussing 13- and 16-year-old girls being at a bar anyway? They’re the Obama sisters, not the Bush twins.
Instead of dishing advice to two girls who don’t need it, Lauten needs to take a look at the woman in the mirror and act as if having a job as a communications director for a congressman matters to her. Because an adult working in communications who recklessly goes after minors on her Facebook page suggests to me that she doesn’t appreciate benefits or a 401(k). I’m just sayin’.
As you can probably guess, Lauten’s comments ignited a social media storm, led by The Root’s Yesha Callahan, that turned into a very public dragging on Twitter, where #ElizabethLauten became a trending topic.
Nine hours after her initial post, Lauten had a change of heart—or, more likely, her boss called and flipped on her, or she was tired of getting cursed out on social media. In any case, she removed the initial post and apologized, also via Facebook:
I wanted to take a moment and apologize for a post I made on Facebook earlier today, judging Sasha and Malia Obama at the annual White House turkey pardoning ceremony.
… 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. 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.
It reeked of a bootleg Olivia Pope fix. The scandal was not “handled.”
“People need to learn to take a moment and think before speaking/typing,” wrote Instagram commenter “pattijolie.” “Once your words and thoughts have been put out there, the damage is done. She should know better being in her position. Her post was callus and hateful … Apology NOT accepted.”
By 11 p.m. she had made her page private.
I wonder if she’ll have a job come Monday.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article said that Lauten had deleted the apology from her Facebook page.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Follow her on Twitter.