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)

    I love the FLOTUS!!!! Obama 2012!!!

    September 30, 2011 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  2. elizabeth

    Mrs. Obama IS a "normal" person; she just happens to be well-known which makes her the target of way too much interest in her personal life. It would be a very hard thing to live a life where even your trip to Target becomes a national "news" event, especially if you characterize yourself as someone who enjoys being out among people, as Mrs. Obama does.I would think the kind of celebrity she endures would tend to be very isolating, and I am glad she can "escape" to Target, restaurants, etc. Now, if only the media would stop making these escapes into photo ops and news stories, she might feel a little less like she lives in a fish bowl.

    September 30, 2011 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. Lynne

    Jen - Did you complain about Mrs. Bush have big fancy dinners when she was first lady? Big fancy dinners in the White House is part of the job...get over it.

    September 30, 2011 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  4. David

    PLEASE PEOPLE... THIS WAS STAGED! Just last weeek she was blasted for attending a fancy fundraiser with $40,000 worth of diamonds around her neck. And then she goes shopping at Target (with an assistant- really where do I get one of those). And then an AP photographer just happens to show up and get the perfectly framed picture with the Secret Service not doing anything to protect her? REALLY. Most of these posts though just prove the PR campaign worked!

    September 30, 2011 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  5. Joanne

    was she wearing her $500 sneakers?

    September 30, 2011 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  6. josh

    Can Sarah Palin pull something like this off.......ammmmm NO!!!! she llikes to stick her head where it doesnt belong. YET IT WOULDNT SURPRISE ME IF SHE TRIES TO PULL SOMETHING LIKE THIS OFF>

    September 30, 2011 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  7. Carol

    The first lady is authentic, not put on in the least. Glad she could pull this off, shopping in target. I could picture Laura doing this, but not Nancy or Jackie.

    September 30, 2011 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  8. Woman In California

    I love Target. I'm there practically every weekend. I'm glad to know our First Lady loves it too.

    Keep up the good work you're doing on behalf of childhood obesity and keep driving the haters wild.

    September 30, 2011 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  9. Lisa G


    Excellent lpublic relations move by shopping at Target before next years elections. Trust me, if Obama wins she will never step foot in another Target again...

    September 30, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am | "

    Why such a hater Bob? I don't care if I had millions, I'd still shop Target! You know the kids need school supplies, the dog needs treats and the hubby needs a 6 pack - best place in the world to get all 3!

    Michelle – You are THE BEST First Lady I think we've ever had! Would love to have you disrupt my Target shopping any time. We could have the guys in dark shades grab us Starbucks while we checked out the garden section.

    Thank you for being such a great role mother – my daughter has said that she hopes she can be as good a mother as Michelle Obama and after the look - me!

    September 30, 2011 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  10. Mike in SA

    BTW, we're not haters of the First Lady, we're haters of the idea that anybody in their right mind would actually buy into this obvious photo op.

    September 30, 2011 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  11. Barry In Las Vegas

    Shopping with photographers in tow. Give me a break – shopping at Target? Must be re-election time. Of course, the compliant MSM is doing it's best to get this photo and story out.

    This pig doesn't fly.

    September 30, 2011 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  12. DMS

    "What is the diffenence between Republicans and Democrats. You don't see Republicans calling this a photo-op, or trashing her. If Gov. Palin had been spotted at a Target, all the comments would be only trailer park trash shop at discount stores. Secondly, Gov. Palin ran a marathon incognito while in Iowa. Did our media fawn over her? Nah, why bother humanizing Palin"

    Well bassman, the difference is that Palin is nobody. She quit her first term as Governor and now is a reality TV personality. Mrs. Obama is the first lady of the United States.

    September 30, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  13. Karen


    Jen – Did you complain about Mrs. Bush have big fancy dinners when she was first lady? Big fancy dinners in the White House is part of the job...get over it.
    Here's the difference, Lynne dear. Bush didn't preach non-stop how we all need to, "tighten our belts", "cut back", and "take less vacations" like these two have. The Obama's are all about preaching to us about cutting back, yet spends all our money on parties, golf, campaigning and vacations, vacations, vacations. Read a report where Marie, ooops, I mean Michelle, spent $1 MILLION on her vacations alone last year.

    And this Target shopping story. Give me a freakin break. The only ones that believe this Target shopping crap on the fools still on Kool-aid. What a staged performance from MO, BO and the WH!

    September 30, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  14. DMS

    BTW bassman, please dont' call her "Gov. Palin" because she is NOT a Governor. Remember, she quit half-way through her first term. That disqualifies her from ever being called "Governor."

    September 30, 2011 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  15. Stephen

    CNN was played by a photo op.

    September 30, 2011 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  16. Chris

    I'm just going to throw this out there. Last week she gets lambasted for wearing a $42,000 bracelet. This week she is all of a sudden seen as "one of the people" by "quietly" shopping at Target. Screams of her PR team scrambling to have her seen as "one of us". Sorry I just don't buy it.

    September 30, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  17. Steve- Illinois

    You people are suckers!! This is the same woman who flew 4 hours ahead of the President to Martha's Vineyard at a cost of $100's of thousands of dollars! I wonder if she was wearing the $40,000 bracelets? She spends millions of tax dollars on vacations, takes one trip to Target for a photo op, (who carries their bags while pushing an almost empty cart?) and you lemmings fall all over yourselves thinking she's one of the commoners!

    Common Sense!!!!!!

    September 30, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  18. Mindie from India

    Here's the difference, Karen dear – Bush told everybody to GO SHOPPING and EVERYONE SHOULD BUY A HOUSE – get over yourselves. This is the best first Lady this Country has had in a long LONG time.

    September 30, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  19. Dan, Tx

    So, it appears from comments below that some people think that Michele Obama should not be allowed to leave the White House or go shopping, because it costs too much, or it is always a political move. OK, but then you believe exactly the same about Laura Bush and every first lady, right? So, your comments are worthless. If you don't think that First Lady's deserve secret service protection – then you don't remember what happened in Arizona. There is a time for those who believe that the ever so slightly different policies of the republican party are better for America, but this is not the venue for your disagreement. What kind of person is so angry that they have to make a negative comment about this story?

    September 30, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  20. Mindie from India

    I love her new hair style!

    September 30, 2011 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  21. Mindie from India

    @Steve- Illinois – why don't you blast Crazy Eyes Laura for her $120,000 a year salary for doing NOTHING – what did Laura Bush offer this country? "Stand by your man"? Get over yourselves – take the blinders off – realize the truth or this country will finally be destroyed under Repiblican policies.

    September 30, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. Root and stem

    Part of the re-election campaign. Nothing less, nothing more.

    September 30, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. kimberly

    AMAZING WOMAN!!! She is REAL! I love her so much! I am so proud everytime she comes out and speaks, or does something like this. She is trying to be everyday America, not pomp and circumstance like barbara bush- she actually cares about Americans! THANK YOU President Obama for marrying such a classy lady!!! haters make me happy!!!

    September 30, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  24. Root and stem

    Ms. Obama behaves like a pasha diva. She and hub will do anything to stay in the White House for decades to come. Several high ranking Dems are already floating the concept of suspending next years elections.

    September 30, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  25. Mike

    Wow, Surprised how many of you have bought into this stunt. A photographer from The Associated Press just happened to be there, give a break. Obviously trying to make the public believe that even the Presidential family is cutting back. Don't be so easily manipulated.

    September 30, 2011 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
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