January 24th, 2009
10:05 AM ET
8 months ago

Michelle Obama: 'Inappropriate' to use daughters to sell dolls

Ty, the maker of Beanie Babies, is introducing two new Ty Girlz dolls named Marvelous Malia and Sweet Sasha.
Ty, the maker of Beanie Babies, is introducing two new Ty Girlz dolls named Marvelous Malia and Sweet Sasha.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – They’ve been in the White House less than a week, but the first daughters have already been co-opted by marketers — and Michelle Obama isn’t happy about it.

Ty, the toy company responsible for the popular Beanie Babies dolls, is now marketing “Sweet Sasha” and “Marvelous Malia” dolls.

The first lady’s office said Friday Ty was out of line. “We feel it is inappropriate to use young private citizens for marketing purposes,” said a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama in a statement.

A Ty representative told CNN the company generally avoids naming dolls for “any particular living individual,” because doing so might interfere with how kids use their imaginations to play with them. But they wouldn’t reveal the source of their inspiration for the new figures, telling CNN that information relating to the development of the company’s merchandise - including how it comes up with products, product names, and trademarks – is proprietary.

Related video: First lady miffed by 'Malia,' 'Sasha' dolls

–CNN White House Producer Becky Brittain contributed to this report.


Filed under: Michelle Obama • Obama family • Popular Posts
soundoff (966 Responses)
  1. Diane

    If I were in the White House I would be very upset that my children were being exploited. There is one way we can fix this - don't buy anything made by Ty. Not just these two new dolls but any of their other products.

    As we all know, money speaks. Don't be the first on to run out and buy these!

    January 23, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  2. Amy Stephenson

    This is wrong. As consumers, we can express our disgust in one simple manner: DO NOT PURCHASE THE DOLLS.

    January 23, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  3. Lori

    @Lawl:

    With regards to Sarah Palin's daughter- Bristol was an adult who made a decision to have unprotected sex, especially with a Governor mother who wants wants to regulate abstinence policies in her State (which clearly did not work in her own home).

    The Obama girls are still underaged children and have not asked for this attention or these dolls to be named after them. Big difference.

    January 23, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  4. Brook Mantia

    I think the dolls are adorable, but if Ty did this without consulting the First Family, that's a bit tacky and indeed inappropriate. As much as we'd all love to give in to our baser instincts and "anything goes" attitudes towards polticians and public figures, I think there still needs to be some respect particularly for minor children, even if they are the President's kids, they shouldn't be forced into the spotlight more than necessary just so someone can make a buck on them. Besides, I think children can name their dolls Malia and Sasha if they want to without anyone telling them.

    January 23, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  5. Joan

    Honestly the thing that bothers me most is that the company blatantly lied. How stupid do they think people are to say that the dolls are not based on the president's family. I wouldn't want to support a company that insults my intelligence to make a buck.

    January 23, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  6. Jessca

    I've read the statements here and am still on the fence. Yes, it's obvious that TY was using the girls as their inspiration. But come one, unless they come right out and say it, there's nothing here. Are we now forbiden from naming black dolls sasha because there happens to be a black girl in the white house with that name? Can we have a white doll named Chelsea? Or is that name off limits now too? I'm actually a little suprised at the uproar.

    January 23, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  7. philip

    The Obamas should sue Ty for all the profits generated plus damages and something for bad taste! Let's see – we're in a recession, dolls become a non-necessity, we have two children in the White House again – you connect the dots. Ty is doing this for money, period. If the Obamas do not set the boundries now, it will just get out of hand.

    January 23, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  8. capnmike

    No matter what happens in America, there's always some dirtbag huckster who wants to make a quick buck off it, regardless of whose lives he invades. I was surprised that somebody didn't immediately start selling "9/11 toy kits...comes complete with 2 towers, 2 airplanes, and realistic plastic bodyparts. Batteries not included"!
    These things should be taken off the market immediately.

    January 23, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  9. I. A. Frank

    It would be great if millions of these dolls were sold. It would help to energize the economy. However, if the dolls are made in a foreign factory, Obama should order a cruise missile strike to take that factory out and force TY to make the dolls in the US with American workers.

    January 23, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  10. KD in Houston

    I understand why she is upset, but Ty did give these dolls the sweetest names, and honestly, the dolls look exactly alike– the only likeness they have to the girls other than the names is the skin color.

    It is a matter of privacy, but being a part of the first family that's pretty much gone, and [btw I am an Obama supporter] they haven't exactly kept the girls out of the limelight. I'm not saying they deserved this, but [and I'll close with this]:
    1. Ty was right [legally] to not get permission first because there would have been no denying the inspiration for naming the dolls and that would have made for a huge lawsuit.
    2. The dolls were made in good fashion and I think the intention [while any company's intent is to make money] was still good I think... they could have taken to making really trashy look alikes of these sweet girls.

    Chalk this one up as a loss... I wouldn't be surprised if Ty didn't send them each one of their own dolls as a courtesy gift to the first family.

    January 23, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  11. Darryl

    I know some people believe it is Ty's right to use their names. But what I find offensive is Ty DENYING that these dolls were named after the first daughters. I would be upset if I were the first family that a company is going to make millions on them, and at the same time, completely offended that the company is denying they're doing so. It's like Ty's having their cake and eating it too. Shameful is right!

    January 23, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  12. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    American Girl dolls would have been better...but come on folks, lay off the kids.

    Oh wait, there's nothing new about Bristol Palin so this is all we get from corporate owned fixed news to spew vitriol over?

    Grow up, CNN. You're justl like FAUX NEWS. HuffPo is so much better than you.

    And you won't post my comment, I bet.

    January 23, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  13. arc, Lugano CH

    Ty are clearly out of line to market these dolls with such obvious likeness to the first daughters without the consent of the First Lady and the President.

    Conservative bigots in KY already hung effigies of the President of the United States during the campaign. Who knows what some other Conservatives will use those dolls for to voice their hatred now that the campaign is over and their party has lost? Only in America.

    Truly disgusting Ty.

    January 23, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  14. capnmike

    No matter what happens in America, there's always some dirtbag huckster who wants to make a quick buck off it, regardless of whose lives he invades. I was surprised that somebody didn't immediately start selling "9/11 toy kits...comes complete with 2 towers, 2 airplanes, and realistic plastic bodyparts. Batteries not included"!
    These things should be taken off the market immediately.

    January 23, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  15. Glen,

    To those who say that the family is off limits, just remember how the girls were used by their father in his electioneering. You can't have it both ways. You either keep your family private or you exploit them – each has consequences. Nobody forced President Obama to put family photos on the cover of magazines, making them little celebrities. They are now public property as much as the Pitt family are little celebrities.

    January 23, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  16. Ula Nejad

    Nothing hateful about commenting on the First Black lady. Don't forget she campaigned actively and hard for her husband. She will be held responsible for any comments she makes before and now. I hope she is enjoying all the fame. Lets play Madam First Lady. A fist bump will do.

    January 23, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  17. Linda

    TY was wrong! You don't mess with children no matter who their parents are! Those girls have enough change in their lives, their privacy should be respected! No more TY purchases for my family.

    January 23, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  18. philip

    Bob, Tom, Bry, Jim and you other Jokers

    You all are full of S_ _ _. There are laws against this, you need to get over it. I would like to see someone put your faces on a roll of toilet paper and see if you get pissed and sue!

    Oh by the way, Ty has NEVER had an African American/Dark Skin doll in this line and suddenly they do? No jury will side with them.

    God Bless the Trial Lawyers!

    January 23, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  19. legal in nc

    Where were all you self-righteous people when Palin was getting questioned about the little baby being her daughters and not hers? If it's ok for the haters of Palin and the media to personally attack Palin and her family then Michelle needs to quit whining and deal with it.

    As you told Palin "you put your family in the spotlight",,,, so did the Obamas.

    January 23, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  20. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    No story here.

    What's going on in Pakistan?

    January 23, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  21. miguel

    Calm down, folks. The dolls are not demeaning or humiliating. They are clearly not designed to be realistic. The company just used the names of two very popular children who are now in the limelight.

    The President (rightfully) displayed his daughters to the nation to show that he is a familly man and to endear himself to the voters. He (rightfully) tells stories about them to the press to make himself seem more human. They are adorable, and now famous because of their parents' own actions. This type of attention goes with the territory. The First Lady needs to save her righteous anger for when somebody says something not nice about them.

    January 23, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  22. Charles

    What will the commercial gurus think of next?

    January 23, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  23. KATHLEEN

    These dolls are terribly UGLY and the Obama girls are beautiful and
    sweet. The dolls made in China by Ty. I know Mattel toys are made
    in China (with lead) Do not buy the dolls. And do not let your children
    chew on them.

    January 23, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  24. disgust

    I think the charade is very inappopriate. This country has gone to the dogs

    January 23, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  25. obamamama

    jackie: do you think asking mrs. obama if she would like aborted beanie babies is clever? what a moronic thing to even bring up. your mother must be proud. can you be against abortion and leave it out of an article on dolls? yikes. you're scary.

    lawl: pailn's kid daughter got knocked up. that is going to warrant all kinds of reaction. the obama kids did nothing but be daughters. ridiculous comparison.

    stacy: hurricaine katrina was tragic. trying to make a buck off 2 kids is inappropriate.

    TJ: how many distasteful items were sold of the bush family kids? give it time, there will be plenty of mean obama things. it's time to get over your bitterness over our dislike for bush. move on.

    what is it with you people and your insistence on comparing apples to oranges? i am astounded at the lack of intelligence i consistently see on this site. go back to fox, where you belong.

    January 23, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
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