Is CNN Pushing Kids to Ask For a Salary for First Lady Michelle?

-By Warner Todd Huston

**VIDEO below fold**

CNN has a segment that they call “CNN Student News” that is supposed to highlight the news of the day for the kiddie set. Pursuant to that, in a December 15 segment, CNN floats a question asking if Michelle Obama (or any First Lady) should get a government salary just for being First Lady?

But, what we really ended up with is a slight to those same students to whom CNN was ostensibly relating the news. No where in the report was there any talk of the Constitution in particular nor the law in general as the CNN anchor cajoled the kids into viewing with awe the “work” of the First Lady and in fostering in them a feeling that First Ladies should be paid for this “work.”

In fact, one interview during the segment even made happy talk of the fact that, during the Clinton administration, Hillary Clinton’s travel and causes forced a “moving public works project” wherever she went. There was no hint of the burden this posed on the places she visited and no sense that these expenditures were unfunded nor that such expenditures were never voted on by the people of the states she visited. The kids are left uninformed that this “moving public works” burden was forced upon taxpayers unawares.

CNN did not stress that a First Lady has no official role and no elected mandate to spend the public’s money on whatever cause she so chooses to expound upon — though a brief quote from Laura Bush that a First Lady “is not an office holder” was included at the end of the segment.

Apparently voting federal officials into office so that they may legally spend money from the public treasury is a concept that CNN doesn’t think kids need to know about.

Naturally we are treated to another claim of Michelle Obama being a “powerhouse in her own right” in emulation of Hillary’s once smartest-woman-in-the-world style of hagiography. The kids are asked why we shouldn’t pay the newest smartest woman in the world just for having said “I do” to her husband?

The final product here pushes the big government angle all the way and makes no mention of the proper role of federalism nor what it is that our federal government was created for. CNN just imagines that the government is a bottomless pit of money to be casually thrown around, now to even wives of federal officials.

What follows is the transcript of the video from which you can see that CNN spends little time properly informing the kids on what role (of better, the lack of one) that a First Lady has. If this “CNN Student News” program is supposed to be a teaching aid, it fails to inform. But it pushes a nice left agenda message, doesn’t it?

CNN Student News Transcript: December 15, 2008


GEORGE RAMSAY, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Time for the Shoutout! What is the United States first lady’s annual salary? Is it: A) $175,000, B) $97,000, C) $35,000 or D) Unpaid? You’ve got three seconds — GO! There is no government pay for the U.S. first lady. That’s your answer and that’s your Shoutout!

Pay or Nay?

AZUZ: Before she was first lady, Laura Bush worked as a teacher and librarian. Former first lady Hillary Clinton was a lawyer. Betty Ford even a theatrical dancer! When they moved into the White House thought, they all left the professional world to take on a new role. Some folks question whether that position should be paid. Alina Cho examines the issue.


ALINA CHO, CNN REPORTER: She’ll make history as the nation’s first black first lady. But even before her husband’s historic win, Michelle Obama was a powerhouse in her own right: an Ivy League-educated lawyer with a six-figure salary. In a month, she’ll be moving into a new home and a new full time job, working for free.

ROBERT THOMPSON, PROFESSOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY NEWHOUSE SCHOOL: I think most Americans, when they hear the phrase “first lady,” still think china patterns, tours through the White House.

CHO: Jacqueline Kennedy won an Emmy for her TV tour of the White House. William Howard Taft’s wife, Helen, attended Cabinet meetings, but she said only to keep her husband awake. Nancy Reagan had her “Just Say No” campaign. Then, came Hillary.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NEW YORK: I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.

CHO: Hillary Clinton redefined the role of first lady, taking on health care, traveling the world. Yet she was never paid a cent.

LISA CAPUTO, FMR. PRESS SECRETARY TO HILLARY CLINTON: We used to joke that we were a moving public works project. Wherever we would go, there would be new roads paved, literally. She defined that role for herself, and I think in many ways helped pave the ground for future first ladies.

CHO: Like Michelle Obama.

THOMPSON: More and more, presidents are going to, I think, have spouses who actually come to the job with a life, with a career. And the kind of things that they do might, in fact, be useful things to employ.

CHO: But a salaried first lady? some say the pay is in the perks: big fancy house, first-class travel, elegant dinners. So, what does the current office holder think?

FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH: No, I don’t think it should be a paid post. The spouse of the president is not an office holder; we weren’t elected.



AZUZ: So, the role of first lady does have responsibilities, but as Mrs. Bush says, it’s not an elected position. So what do you say? Should first ladies be paid? Head to our blog at, see what I think, and tell us what you think.

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer, has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and is featured on many websites such as, Human Events Magazine,, New Media Journal, Men’s News Daily and the New Media Alliance among many, many others. Additionally, he has been a frequent guest on talk-radio programs to discuss his opinion editorials and current events. He has also written for several history magazines and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture” which can be purchased on He is also the owner and operator of Feel free to contact him with any comments or questions : EMAIL Warner Todd Huston

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