Before last week, Elizabeth Laughton was known as the communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher, and previously served as former media director for the Republican National Committee, two high profile posts in the infrastructure of the Republican Party.
On Friday, November 28 Laughton posted a controversial status on her Facebook page which read, “Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the first family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.’”
The post garnered immense media coverage and nearly universal condemnation over the weekend. On Monday, Laughton posted a response to the firestorm stating “After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were. I’d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt.” Shortly thereafter, Laughton resigned her post working for Rep. Fincher.
Laughton’s remarks were not directly addressed by President Obama, but White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to a question about the incident by stating the White House was “Taken aback that there was some political operative on Capitol Hill who did use the occasion of a Thanksgiving-themed event to criticize members of the first family.
Several other first daughters weighed in on the remarks in the days after. Patti Davis, the daughter of Ronald Reagan, stated, “As First Daughters, you can’t win, and while there isn’t anything normal about the life you are living right now, you still can be.” In an appearance on Bravo Jenna Bush Hager remarked, “I’m fiercely protective of them. It’s not a job that they wanted.” Mrs. Hager stated that Sasha and Malia “have done an incredible job,” adding “Obviously, I had a hard time,” likely referring to an incident where George W. Bush’s daughters were tabloid fodder when they were caught drinking underage, just months into their father’s first term.
The comments stem from an appearance by Obama’s two daughters in which they watched him pardon a turkey, a Thanksgiving tradition that stems back to Abraham Lincoln. The fact that the attacks were aimed at two minors, aged 14 and 16, resulted in national outrage.
Laughton’s remarks may prove to be a cautionary tale for political operatives going forward. Increased partisanship and the anonymity granted by the Internet indeed have real-world ramifications.