“‘The First Lady looked stunning, as always, as she stepped down the jet in a textured frock along with her husband and her two daughters,’ her mother, and the nanny,” Rush Limbaugh said Tuesday on his radio show, reading from an article he called “pathetic.” The words “her mother, and the nanny,” were added by the talk-show host—they were not in the story from which he quoted.
Limbaugh’s point, uncharacteristically muddled, was to denigrate the First Lady for her fashion frivolity as she accompanied her husband on a trade trip to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador—all this while bombs in Libya and radioactive steam in Japan threaten the world’s well-being. Limbaugh seemed to want to leave the impression that the president is somehow diminished and distracted by all these women and all this fashion.
And the mention of the nanny? Makes the Obamas look spoiled. After all, Michelle’s mother, Marian Robinson, already lives with the family in the White House, in part to help with the children. And the girls are growing up; the older daughter, Malia, looks to be almost as tall as her father.
Except the woman is not the nanny. She is Olympia Fields resident Eleanor Kaye Wilson, the girls’ godmother, and the best friend of Michelle’s mother. Wilson, who had a long career in education—she was, among other things, director of DePaul University’s School for New Learning, as well as director of Urban Programs at Chicago City-Wide College—was an Obama appointee in 2009 to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, along with such big names as former Sen. Tom Daschle, former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, and Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe.
Limbaugh apparently assumed that an older African-American woman must be household help, and he also misattributed the news story from which he quoted to The New York Daily News (that paper had run its own Michelle fashion story on Monday).
In fairness, Wilson—known in the family as “Mama Kaye” and as “Barack’s adopted mother"—did help care for the children while Michelle and Barack campaigned in 2008. One friend of Michelle’s told me that she was like Martha Stewart, in her talent for doing crafts with the girls and for preparing delicious food.