Michelle Obama made her last public speech as first lady. The networks lined up with a 21-handkerchief salute. Nothing will ever be the same.
NBC's Andrea Mitchell proclaimed that the speech was "one of hope and empowerment for the young people she has championed for eight years ... her unique voice rejecting the racial overtones of 2016." Obama is a "once-reluctant political wife, fighting an early caricature as an angry black woman." Now, Mitchell says, she is "a political orator in a class of her own." (How quickly they forget that she proclaimed herself to be proud to be an American only when her husband, who has stoked racial tensions for eight years, started racking up primary victories in 2008.)
CBS' Julianna Goldman touted how Obama "used her celebrity to inspire physical fitness" and "turned into the Democrats' not so secret weapon" in 2016. (Donald Trump won the election. How much of a weapon was she?)
But these two networks dug deeper. NBC devoted a whole hour of "The Tonight Show" to honoring her. Host Jimmy Fallon oozed: "Thank you, Mrs. Obama, for being a strong, smart, independent woman; an activist; a style icon; and a great dancer; and showing us all what it would look like if Beyonce married a much nerdier Jay Z." The next morning, the "Today" show aired that clip along with a tweet that proclaimed: "I'm so speechless. I cried, I laughed, I got chills, and I most definitely grieved. Michelle is truly iconic."
CBS was even worse. It went directly to Oprah Winfrey — who endorsed President Barack Obama in 2008 — for a one-hour prime-time special in December. She uncorked the superlatives, saying, "Mrs. Obama is not only a woman to watch in American politics but also considered the coolest first lady in U.S. history."
Coolness is measured by ideology, not personality. They consider all Republicans to be doormats, yet they gush over Hillary Clinton, the flattest doormat in recent White House history.
The gush continued. Winfrey said: "With every song, every laugh and daring style choice, the power of Michelle Obama's personality and authenticity has made her a pop culture icon. ... Her fresh approach shined a light on the initiatives she felt most passionate about." She even cheered "the Obamas' openly affectionate and romantic marriage" as being "a dramatic and welcome change for the first couple living in the White House." That juxtaposition refers only to the Clintons, and that's something the left will never acknowledge.
In case anyone forgot, this is not how the networks treated Laura Bush. After a few polite first lady questions, she would often get George W. Bush-bashing hardballs. In 2005, ABC reporter Jessica Yellin exploited a segment that was supposedly about White House Christmas cards to ask, "Have you ever met with a mother whose own loss has made you question, even for a moment, whether the U.S. should be in Iraq?"
In 2007, while interviewing Laura Bush, ABC's Robin Roberts cited columnist Thomas Friedman as saying "we should export hope instead of fear." She added, "Desmond Tutu went even farther, saying the generosity of Americans — that's what we should export instead of our bombs."
Even after the Bushes left Washington, D.C., it continued. In 2010, NBC's Matt Lauer asked Laura Bush about New Orleans: "Is it ever painful for you to come back to this region because in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it seems so much of the blame for what happened or didn't happen here was laid at the feet of your husband?"
There was no hourlong Winfrey special or Fallon flattery. Laura Bush didn't have a media cult to praise her every "iconic" utterance and dance move. That's what Republicans have expected — and quietly tolerated — for decades. But Michelle Obama coverage sounds like what a state-run media in an authoritarian backwater would broadcast about the Great Leader's spouse.
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.