“The most transparent administration in history” isn’t being so transparent about Michelle Obama’s taxpayer-funded China trip.
Michelle Obama, her two kids, her mother, and numerous aides embarked on the trip today–they will not return to the U.S. until March 26. White House officials refuse to tell U.S. taxpayers how much they will shell out for the trip, likely due to inevitable media scrutiny. Simultaneously, the First Lady has banned any questions from media while she is on the China tour. It is unclear at this time if the prohibition of applies to just American journalists, or Chinese reporters as well.
Because the media is not allowed to report on what happens during the China trip, taxpayers are left with no idea as to what they are subsidizing.
Major media outlets received an email informing them of the ban. The subject of the email was “‘FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY / NOT FOR REPORTING,” and said there will only be two events in China that are completely open to press. During those two appearances, which are described as having “limited space,” Michelle Obama will not take any questions whatsoever.
One media outlet that received the email, The Daily Mail, reported, “Although she will make a few speeches with reporters in the room, the picture is largely one of an expensive, taxpayer-funded tourism exercise for Mrs. Obama, her two daughters, and her mother – not the official trip the White House has projected.”
The Chinese trip will undeniably be expensive. But Ben Rhodes, the White House’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, insisted that the price tag is well worth it. He said, “The most powerful message we can deliver [to Chinese people] is one of the examples of not just the First Lady’s life story but of America and our values. That alone I think speaks to things like respect for human rights that are interwoven into the DNA of the United States of America.”
If the intended purpose of the trip is to affect relations with China, as White House spokespeople like Rhodes are conveying, the media ban is especially puzzling.
Michelle Obama’s top aide, Tina Tchen, will be joining on the trip. She said, “We are not discussing or disclosing information regarding the details of the logistics of the trip.”
Still, the aide did not try to conceal her excitement. She said, “I think we are all, here in the First Lady’s office, quite excited about the upcoming trip… I think the First Lady is very much looking forward to it.”
While in the country, the First Lady and her travel partners will visit numerous cities including Beijing.
Michelle Obama has come under fire in the past for taking expensive, tax-payer funded vacations. Major trips included her $487,000 tour of Spain and a $424,142 stay in Africa.