WASHINGTON (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama is challenging assertions she’s forcefully imposed her will on White House aides and says people have inaccurately tried to portray her as “some kind of angry black woman.”
Mrs. Obama tells CBS News she hasn’t read New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor’s new book that characterizes her as a behind-the-scenes force in the Executive Mansion, whose strong views often draw her into conflict with President Barack Obama’s top advisers.
“I never read these books,” she told CBS’s Gayle King in an interview broadcast Wednesday. “So I’ve just gotten in the habit of not reading other people’s impressions of people.”
In the book, Mrs. Obama is said to have occasionally bristled at some of the demands and constraints of life in the White House.
In the interview, Mrs. Obama said, “I love this job. It has been a privilege from day one.”
“Now there are challenges,” she added. “If there’s any anxiety that I feel, it’s because I want to make sure that my girls (Malia and Sasha) come out of this on the other end whole.”
The Kantor book portrays a White House where tensions developed between Mrs. Obama and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and former press secretary and presidential adviser Robert Gibbs. The book, titled “The Obamas,” describes Mrs. Obama as having gone through an evolution from struggle to fulfillment in her role at the White House, while labeling her an “unrecognized force” in pursuing the president’s goals. Neither the president nor his wife agreed to be interviewed for the book.
“I do care deeply about my husband,” Mrs. Obama said in the CBS appearance. “I am one of his biggest allies. I am one of his biggest confidants.” But she sought to put aside “this notion that I sit in meetings.”
“I guess it’s just more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here,” she said. “That’s been an image people have tried to paint of me since the day Barack announced, that I’m some kind of angry black woman.”
“There will always be people who don’t like me,” Mrs. Obama added, and said she could live with that.
Mrs. Obama said that she’s “just trying to be me, and I just hope that over time, that people get to know me.”
Asked specifically about an assertion of dissension between herself and Emanuel, now the mayor of Chicago, the first lady said she has “never had a cross word” with him. The same, she said, applies to Gibbs, whom she described as “a good friend, and remains so.”
“I’m sure we could go day to day and find things people wished they didn’t say to each other,” Mrs., Obama said. “And that’s why I don’t read these books. … It’s a game, in so many ways, that doesn’t fit. Who can write about what I feel? What third person can tell me what I feel?”
Mrs. Obama said that when questions or conflicts arise involving her and the White House staff, her East Wing staff resolves the issue with her husband’s staff in the West Wing.
“If there’s communication that needs to happen, it’s between staffs,” she said. “I don’t have conversations with my husband’s staff.”