CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday insisted that Barack and Michelle Obama are the "closest thing we have to royalty." The anchor was discussing complaints by the First Lady that she had been mistaken for a Target employee during a visit. Lemon lamented, "But speaking to People magazine, according to the Obamas, they're sometimes treated less than like royals, or the first couple, and more like the help."
He began the segment by declaring, "They are America's first couple, the closest thing that we have to royalty." New York Times columnist Charles Blow quipped, "You're going to get in so much trouble for calling the Obamas royals." Republican strategist Tara Setmayer lectured, "We fought a war to get away from that." [MP3 audio here.]
Chastised, Lemon retreated, "I said the closest thing we had."
Comparing Democrats to royalty is not new for reporters. As the Media Research Center found in the 2014 year-end Notable Quotables, journalists seemed to think the Clintons were American royalty:
“Move over, Prince George. This morning, Americans have their own royal, or, rather, presidential baby, to look forward to.”
— Correspondent Bianna Golodryga on ABC’s Good Morning America, April 18.
“Just moments ago, Chelsea Clinton and her new baby girl Charlotte, left the hospital....This is sort of like, you know, kind of reminds of the whole Kate and William moment. I mean, isn’t it even the same dress?”
— Anchor Erin Burnett on CNN’s OutFront, September 29.
“Prince George is doing wonders for the royal family’s popularity. Look at those cheeks. This morning, speculation abounds: Could Chelsea Clinton’s own baby announcement have a similar impact on an American dynasty?”
— Correspondent Susan Saulny on ABC’s Good Morning America, April 20.
A partial transcript of the December 18 CNN Tonight segment is below:
DON LEMON: They are America's first couple, the closest thing that we have to royalty, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. But speaking to People magazine, according to the Obamas, they're sometimes treated less than like royals, or the first couple, and more like the help.
CHARLES BLOW: You're going to get in so much trouble for calling the Obamas royals.
LEMON: I know. I knew it.
TARA SETMAYER (political commentator): I know. Especially with what's going on these days.
LEMON: I said the closest thing we had. I knew it.
SETMAYER: We fought a war to get away from that.
BLOW: It's not even things that you can completely pin down and say is this or is this not, because no one will ever know. You can't climb inside someone's head. You don't know anybody else's motive. You don't know that motive, if there is a motive, if there's malice involved....The whole conversation always boils down to how does something make you feel.