Accuracy in Media

Four days after a photo of First Lady Michelle Obama shopping in a Target store rocketed around the world, the mystery still remains as to exactly how an Associated Press photographer managed to be in the same store at the same time as Mrs. Obama.

Obama, who was in a disguise that resembled something  that might be seen on a campy detective show, was spotted leaving a local Virginia Target store last Friday by the photographer, but apparently by no one else in the store. Her Secret Service detail must have been equally disguised since they would have stood out like a sore thumb the moment they entered the store.

Conservatives in the media have been suspicious about the motive for the photo, calling it a phony baloney photo op and a planned event.

Even The Washington Post questioned whether or not the White House orchestrated the entire event.

When the Post asked the White House and the Associated Press how AP photographer Charles Dharapak managed to be the only news photographer present, they were  stonewalled.

“All I can say is that it was the result of good source work on his part,” AP spokesman Paul Colford said, declining to elaborate on the sources or the work involved.

A spokeswoman for Michelle Obama, Kristina Schake, also declined to discuss how the photographs came about. In a statement, she said, “It is not uncommon for the First Lady to slip out to run an errand, eat at a local restaurant or otherwise enjoy the city outside the White House gates.”

While I don’t doubt that Michelle occasionally slips out of the White House for dinner or a shopping trip, it is a little hard to believe that she couldn’t send someone to Target to buy whatever it is she needed at the time.

Think of all the preparation to find just the right disguise for her and her security detail. And exactly where did the Secret Service park their black SUV’s without being noticed?

Then there is the matter of Mrs. Obama’s schedule. Unlike her husband she doesn’t have a regular press detail and the White House doesn’t “provide details about the First Lady’s personal activities” in an effort to protect her privacy, said spokeswoman Semonti Stephens to the Post.

If that’s the case there isn’t any amount of good “source work” that Dharapak could have done to find the exact time and location of Obama’s shopping trip. Plus, if this was a secret shopping trip why would the Secret Service then allow her to be photographed in the first place?

Conservatives and the Post were right to be suspicious about the photo op.

It was staged, pure and simple, to make Michelle Obama look like an everywoman at a time when very few voters think that President Obama feels their pain, and a backhanded way to give his dimming reelection chances a boost.

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