First lady steps out, quietly does some shopping at Target
September 30th, 2011
11:00 AM ET
7 years ago

First lady steps out, quietly does some shopping at Target

Washington (CNN) - She has the White House staff at her disposal, but that didn't stop first lady Michelle Obama from making a Target run in a Virginia suburb of Washington Thursday.

Dressed casually in a gray Nike hat, loose floral blouse, black pants and red flats, the first lady was seen pushing a cart and carrying several bags from the mega-retailer at a Target in Alexandria, Virginia. The store is about a 15-minute drive from the White House. A photographer from The Associated Press snapped a photograph of Obama exiting the store.

White House officials declined to provide any details of Thursday's outing, saying to protect her privacy they don't release information about the first lady's personal activities.

They did, however, say trips like these are not uncommon.

"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," Kristina Schake, Michelle Obama's communications director, said in a statement.

In an interview with CNN, the manager of the Target where Obama shopped said the first lady went unrecognized while she was in the store.

"People did not approach her, she was very incognito," Maria Panagopulof said. "We didn't realize truly what was happening until she had almost left. The cashier recognized her, but she was very unassuming."

Panagopulof said the store received no advance of the first lady's trip.

"We did not have advance notice; it was as big a surprise to us as it was to everyone else," she said.

She continued, "In hindsight, there was a sweep, but it was not obvious to us beforehand. When she left we thought 'Oh, that's what that was!'"

In May, Michelle Obama told Oprah Winfey that casual shopping trips were one of the things she missed from her life before the White House.

"I think one of the greatest sacrifices for people like us - who like being with people - is that it's the bubble," Obama said. "We talked about it. I can't go to Target and walk around. I guess I could but it would mess up everyone else's shopping experience."

–CNN's Alex Mooney and Leslie Bentz contributed to this report.

Filed under: Michelle Obama
soundoff (299 Responses)
  1. Atul Chaudhary

    It is a 'TARGET' trip to target the gullible. Both husband and wife know how to play politics. One goes shopping spree and other goes golfing. It is time that we give them all the time to do their own stuff.

    September 30, 2011 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. coder

    first time in my lifetime – that a member of the elite – shopped where I shop

    September 30, 2011 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. TP will be flushed after use

    Photo ops?????? Really???????? Can you say mission accomplished?

    September 30, 2011 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  4. Malory Archer

    Has anyone else here noticed that the haters here refer t Mrs. Obama as "that woman"? Dog whistle anyone?

    September 30, 2011 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  5. Reading comprehension...the impossible American dream.

    The fun thing about being from Chicago was that a lot of us got to see the Obamas before they were on the natio stage. Truth....they are a lot more down to Earth than people want to give them credit for being. My neighbor has the same dentist that Barack used, and even when he was a US senator, he would go in and sit in the waiting room and read magazines, just like everybody else. Or, they would be seen around Hyde Park, eating out or just walking around. Pretty normal people. Oh, its also worth noting that they actually made their own money before the presidency. Michelle was a very successful lawyer, and Barack didn't do too bad himself.

    And let me just clue the hating mouthbreathers posting here in on people DO shop at Target. I get that none of you actually know any rich people (because if you did you wouldn't blindly idolize them), but trust me....most of them spend their time doing pretty ordinary things. Pretty ignorant to assume that just because somebody has money, they will only buy the "best". You're commenting on a world you know nothing about.

    September 30, 2011 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  6. Citizen

    So this is news?
    So she spends tens of thousands on a dress and now she is Mother Theresa for going to Target?
    You kool aid sippers are too much.

    September 30, 2011 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  7. Malory Archer

    Katie, what is a "photo opt"?

    September 30, 2011 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  8. Anonymous


    These awestruck comments are hilarious. yeah Michele Obama is really one of you and cares. Oh . . . she's so great she just had to run to Target. Anyway this was probably a calculation to distract from the tens of thousands of dollars of jewelry she routinely wears at events – in the middle of a recession with 10% unemployment.

    September 30, 2011 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
    she WEARS jewelry at events " in the middle of a recession with 10% unemployment" the HORROR! That 'calculation' seems much like your disdain is an attempt to distract from the fact that your access to a computer and the internet with some obvious leisure time to read and comment on the day's events "in the middle of a recession with 10% unemployment." The HORROR. I know, I know, the computer is NOT urs, ur using the free one at the local library u walked to so u cold be there when it opened up and while taking a break from pouring over the want ads u ran across this little bit of fluff and just had to set us all straight. [INSERT "Eyes Rolling" HERE]

    September 30, 2011 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  9. Thatguy371

    And I'm sure the repooplican talk shows are all over this grinding on her.

    September 30, 2011 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  10. delores

    There seems to so much hate in the world today. It's so very sad. Any what's even worst, we hate people that we don't even know personally. Michelle Obama has not done one thing to anyone. How do we know whether she shopped in Target's before becoming the first lady. I am sure that she want to be normal sometimes. Who wouldn't. We all just need to study ourselves and see what makes us the way we all. Life is short. It just takes too much engery to waste it on hate, Think all it.

    September 30, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  11. chelle

    What shocks me is that Americans care either way. She is the wife of the President. Why do you care about where she shops or how much she spends? It's not your money – it's their money. They earned and can spend it however and wherever they like. I can assure you that the wives of the Canadian and British Prime Ministers can go shopping with out it being news.

    September 30, 2011 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  12. Sebastian Kent

    Why are you making such a big deal out of a $40K bracelet regardless of whether it was hers or LOANED to her?

    As an professional – – then earning $50K per year – – I bought my wife a $8,500 ring. I now pull in about $350K per year and just had two Wendy's DoubleStacks @ $1.29 each for lunch.

    Barack makes $400K as President and has made SEVERAL MILLION from the sale of his books. So he could easily afford the bracelet. Target is her Wendy's.

    [BTW, actresses at the Emmy, Oscar, Tony Awards are all wearing loaned jewelry and it often tops $1 MILLION in value.]

    September 30, 2011 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. Work hard in CT

    First off – pretty funny that she's shopping in a store called "Target" that has a bullseye on it (heard that from a CT WTNH anchor this morning) and secondly – it's all politics! Her husband is up for re-election and there she is shopping with the common folk!

    September 30, 2011 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Susan

    This is the most obvious publicity stunt to combat Michelle's image of being a big spender and make her seem like just an ordinary gal. .And why don't you find out how many of the "glowing" comments on this site were written or contrived by Obama PR staff? Do any of you actually believe that an AP photographer usualy takes pictures of shoppers at Target? Or that he just happened to be there with his equipment as she was checking out? No, of course not. Her "quiet" shopping trip is on the front page of because the White House staged it and wanted it to be. And because CNN still acts like they are the White House PR agency, something you've been doing since the 2008 campaign. And you're still at it, lapping up every phony, staged, manipulative PR crumb thrown out by the Obamas and regurgitating it to the public.

    September 30, 2011 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  15. Charlie from the North

    I was too young to really appreciate Jackie O ut I have to say that in my lifetime there has never been a first lady as classy and as beautiful as this one. And I am not just saying that because her husband is the best President though I am sure that helps a little.

    September 30, 2011 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  16. Ms K.

    @jen and other haters, Mrs. Obama is a normal US citizen, can shop when/where she wants..When she has "lavish" dinner as FLOTUS for other high profile dignetaries and famous people, do you expect her to serve hot dogs and beans????you would serve your important guest the best... your must be upset because you are not important in this lavish life style world and never will be. go bash the real people stealing your money, eating over price steak and drinking wine every night

    September 30, 2011 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  17. Annie, Atlanta

    Dan – millions on vacation? Seriously? Maybe for security detail, but it wouldn't be the first First Family that actually went on vacation and had security. And what about that security we're still paying for for Bush and Cheney, war criminals? The Presidents don't get to spend taxpayer money for their vacations. They even have to buy their own postage and food while in the White House. Google is your friend. I'd suggest it so you don't sound so ignorant.

    September 30, 2011 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  18. Oh Come On

    I am increasingly shocked at how big of idiot people in this country are. You are "amazed" at how "down to earth" Michelle Obama is for shopping at Target? Are you serious? And you also think it is a complete coincidence that there just happened to be an AP photographer at the Target that happened to recognize her? Lets connect some dots here, OK? This lady took a seperate jumbo jet from her husband for their last vacation because she didn't want to be inconvenienced. I can PROMISE you that if there was no promise of AP photographers, there is no way in hell she would be inside a Target, buying Lysol no less! So many of you are so easily buffooned I'm embarrassed for you, this was an OBVIOUS setup!

    September 30, 2011 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  19. Ruthy Toothy

    They must have had a sale on bananas.

    September 30, 2011 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  20. Mark

    Don't you just love hypocracy from the Left. Sarah Palin went out to shop at Warmart for diapers a while back and the left-wing main stream media was all over that saying she was "show boating" or something like that. Obama is proof that idiots shouldn't vote or carry hand guns.

    September 30, 2011 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  21. Erin

    Didn't take conservatives, i.e. Michelle Malkin, too long to start whining about this, too.

    September 30, 2011 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  22. Linton

    Work hard in CT

    First off – pretty funny that she's shopping in a store called "Target" that has a bullseye on it

    simple things fascinate simple minds.....

    September 30, 2011 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  23. Erik

    Who cares? This shouldn't be news.

    September 30, 2011 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  24. IsNot

    @ AECSRet

    Target is a FRENCH owned company that DOES NOT support our military in any way. They will not donate or reduce prices of articles for military organization auctions to raise money fro veterans and they do NOT allow VFWs to sell Buddy Poppies for veterans benefit on Memorial Day.


    1) Target is a United States company and is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    2) You won't find Girl Scout cookies, band candy, Salvation Army kettles or any other fundraiser in front of Target stores, either. They don't allow ANY group to solicit/sell anything in front of their stores because they don't want to be in the position of looking like they support one group over another. They prefer to directly donate via corporate grants that benefit large groups of people.

    3) They are indeed very right-wing in their corporate politics, so to accuse them of being anti-military is silly.

    4) Check Snopes before you feel the need to post already debunked Faux propaganda.

    September 30, 2011 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  25. lauradet

    Susan, I am not part of Obama's PR staff. I think the first lady is wonderful, beautiful, very practical and an excellent mom. She probably shopped at Target before she became the first lady and she continues to do so despite her new role in life.

    September 30, 2011 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
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