In Monday’s Washington Post, media reporter Howard Kurtz raised a question few in the media have asked in all the cooing over Michelle Obama’s cover story in Vogue magazine. Isn’t it relevant to know that the writer, Andre Leon Talley, was also a host of an $1,000-a-head Obama fundraiser starring Mrs. Obama? (NBC’s Today didn’t say a word about that in a gauzy interview with Talley last week celebrating how Michelle was at the "red hot center" of both fashion and politics.) Kurtz reported:
The Vogue cover story on Michelle Obama, by editor at large André Leon Talley, is nothing if not laudatory: "With her long, lean, athletic frame, she moves as if she could have danced with Alvin Ailey in another life. Curled up in the corner of a huge taupe velvet sofa, wearing knee-high boots as she nestles into the cushions, she almost seems like any other mom recently relocated to a city because of her husband's new job."
The Talley article mentions briefly that Obama showed up "at a fundraiser I co-hosted last year." That would be a $1,000-a-head fundraiser -- "An Evening With Michelle Obama" -- also hosted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour and designer Calvin Klein.
Wouldn't the story have had more credibility if written by someone who hadn't helped the Obama campaign raise money? Vogue Managing Editor Laurie Jones says Talley "has enjoyed a personal relationship with Mrs. Obama" since meeting her at an Oprah Winfrey party in 2005 and acknowledged working as a campaign volunteer. "André wrote a uniquely personal piece," she says, that "was possible only because of his access to the family."
Talley appeared in the second hour of NBC’s Today on February 11, and co-host Meredith Vieira disclosed nothing of Talley’s political activism. She asked how they met at this Oprah Winfrey party:
TALLEY: And it was extraordinary because everything that Michelle--everything that she said--or she talked to me like she'd known me, and I was so stunned when she said, `Well, I do know you and I read your column.' And my jaw dropped at the table just like that. And then I saw her at the ball dancing beautifully with President Obama--now President Obama, and she just is an amazing woman. I think it comes from just being solid, having good family values. Growing up in a home where there was love, a father that sacrificed everything for her, you know. He had multiple sclerosis, and he was working in public works, and just, he was wonderful.
VIEIRA: And she's all about the opposite of exclusivity...because that was not her life.
TALLEY: No, inclusiveness. Right after the inaugural, on the second day, she was inviting people to the White House, and some of her friends who had dropped in from Chicago, told me that there were people standing at the White House gates that needed to have these cards to get in, and the SS--the security service says, `Well, you don't have a card, we can't let you in.' But Michelle looked out the window and saw these people and said, `Let them in, it's cold.'
NBC and others could notice that the only First Ladies on the cover of Vogue have been Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, but they couldn't raise the idea that perhaps the fashion magazines have a trendy liberal bias? Instead, Today ran long, loving shots of the Michelle cover, with Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" playing underneath.
Some were openly dismissive that Vogue magazine counts as journalism. On Kurtz's CNN show Reliable Sources on Sunday, PBS host Gwen Ifill insisted Talley was not a journalist. "This is Vogue we're talking about. So I mean, it's not like he's a journalist, Andre Leon Talley."