ABC and NBC have delivered fawning coverage of First Lady Michelle Obama's visit this week to South Africa and Botswana, oozing over the "celebrity" and "excitement" of the "patented Michelle power" on display. To its credit, CBS has largely taken a pass on the idolatry.
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On the June 20 edition of ABC's "World News," anchor Diane Sawyer raved: "Wherever she travels, she travels with a signature message, hope, health, and laughter for the young...She's already proven she's the one person who can modernize any ancient protocol...Seven days, three generations of American women, signaling they're ready to dance to any song."
NBC's Kristen Welker repeatedly framed Mrs. Obama as a rock star, depicting locals who are "having a hard time putting their feelings into words" and who "could not be more excited" to see the First Lady. During her June 21 "Today" segment, Welker interviewed a scholar for the liberal Brookings Institution, who exalted the Obamas as "instant celebrities."
Covering Mrs. Obama's unannounced meeting with Nelson Mandela, ABC's John Donvan on the June 21 "World News" drew a tenuous connection between the former South African president and U.S. President Barack Obama: "Mandela's peace prize was perhaps a great deal more earned than was Mrs. Obama's husband's. But both of these men, with Africa in their heritage, had much to overcome."
Fuller transcripts of the above quotes can be found below:
June 20, ABC "World News":
DIANE SAWYER: First Lady Michelle Obama has just touched down in South Africa this evening. Officially there to encourage youth leadership. With her, her daughters, there in those South African blankets. Her mother is there, as well as a niece and a nephew. And they are taking the patented Michelle power to a new part of the world. Wherever she travels, she travels with a signature message, hope, health, and laughter for the young. Maybe it's hop scotching with kids in India, or closing a greeting in Spanish. Pouring a pint of Guinness in Ireland, or just showing up at those State Dinners. And in every hemisphere, reminding students that dreams are not so different.
MICHELLE OBAMA, First Lady: Back when we were young, no one could have predicted that one day we would become the President and First Lady of the United States of America. Our stories are not unique.
SAWYER: She's already proven she's the one person who can modernize any ancient protocol, a hand on the back of the Queen. In Indonesia, a conservative Muslim country, wearing pants and a headscarf as a sign of respect. But even a conservative minister who doesn't believe in shaking hands with a woman, eagerly reached for hers. Later, had to say he was just being polite. And wherever she goes, there is a subtext. Her follow-up trip to Haiti, in effect saying her husband cares, too. And seeming to bring him to South Africa and Botswana, even though he has yet to visit the south of the continent. Seven days, three generations of American women, signaling they're ready to dance to any song.
June 20, NBC "Nightly News":
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC News correspondent: Good evening, Brian. There is a lot of excitement and anticipation surrounding the first lady's trip to South Africa and Botswana. And people here tell me they're having a hard time putting their feelings into words. Michelle Obama and her daughters touched down in Pretoria this evening. She is on a mission of diplomacy and goodwill, America's first African-American first lady visiting her ancestral homeland.
June 21, ABC "World News":
JOHN DONVAN, ABC News correspondent: Consider his guest today. By the time she was just starting school, in South Africa Mandela was already well into his 27 year prison term here on Robin Island. At Princeton, she was just graduating when he, still here, refused to renounce violence in exchange for his freedom. And it was only a few months after a Christmas trip to Hawaii with the new man in her life that Mandela, fully victorious, finally walked free. Mandela's peace prize was perhaps a great deal more earned than was Mrs. Obama's husband's. But both of these men, with Africa in their heritage, had much to overcome. A link between them that neither of them has ever discussed in public, though perhaps Mandela referred to it when he wrote the new U.S. president in 2008, "Your victory was demonstrated...no person...should not dare to dream." And if Mandela had helped him dream, perhaps that's what Obama meant in a recording celebrating Mandela when he turned 90 two years ago.
June 21, NBC "Today":
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC News corespondent: Well, good morning to you, Matt. The first lady's visit is the big news here in South Africa. This paper really says it all, "Michelle Touches Down." You see her here with daughters Malia and Sasha. A lot of people here telling me they could not be more excited. Michelle Obama arrived in Pretoria Monday night. The president wasn't with her, but she certainly wasn't alone. Daughters Malia and Sasha, her niece, nephew and mother also on this sub-Saharan trip. They got a very warm welcome. Malia and Sasha were given African blankets to guard them from South Africa's winter chill. The first daughters have been abroad before. Earlier this year they accompanied the president to Brazil. They've met the queen at Buckingham Palace. But this might be their greatest foray onto the world stage.
MELVIN AYOGU, Brookings Institution: They are instant celebrities. It would be very nice to see the first children of America coming to South Africa and actually interacting with the--we've never--you know, the continent has never had that chance.
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.