January 24th, 2009
10:05 AM ET
9 years ago

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/LIVING/01/22/obama.dolls/art.sasha.malia.dolls.ty.jpg caption="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. TK, Dallas, TX

    we all know the source of that toy companys inspiration besides the once mighty dollar

    January 23, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  2. Justin from New Haven, CT

    They should let them keep making them but insist all money goes to a charity of Michelle's chosing.

    January 23, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  3. Apple

    And p.s. for the Ty company to even try to pretend lke these dolls are a coincidence? That Ty rep needs to be fired for making sure an ignorant statement.

    I will activily discourage my friends from buying Ty products. Why? Because I have no kids and still think this is over the line.

    January 23, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  4. Raf

    The comments made on these blogs never ceases to amaze me. You cannot comment on a point without having your facts straight. It just sounds like hateful, jealous rambling. The article is about a well known and respected company making dolls modeled after the two First Daughters and the First Lady being upset about it. In addition, the company back-pedeled and took no responsibility for making these dolls without the expressed permission of the First Lady or President Obama. To the "gentleman" who mentioned Mrs. Obama dressed her children in designer clothing–guess what? She uses J.Crew for herself and her children–a brand that is available to everyone, unlike Sarah Palin who was sent on a $150,000 shopping spree or Cindy McCain who makes it a point to use high-end designer duds. For the Inauguration, the First Lady wore clothing from a little known designer. I searched and found no dolls made after the Bush's daughters. Yes, there were loads of satirical and disrespectful things made of GW, but there were just as many or more made of the new President, even racial. If I was a public servant and a company made a doll in the image and namesake of my child without my consent or knowledge of it, I would be just as upset as First Lady Obama. Ty should either stop selling the dolls or work out a deal with the First Family where 100% of the proceeds are donated to charity.

    January 23, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  5. Tony

    Another commenter (and the First Lady) had it correct. The President is an elected official and therefore a public figure. The First Lady, maybe (she does have a government staff). The kids are private citizens, and Ty has no right to exploit their likenesses for monetary gain. Not to mention that they're 7 and 10.

    January 23, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  6. smiff

    Well they should really act like its all in good fun. Better be glad the snl peeps dont get ahold of the wee ones. Cant imagine what a skit with the girls and Reecherd Seemons would go like. Maybe SnopeDawg or another libral free speech advantangerist. Or does indecent use of kids only apply to peeps we dont like. Missy needs to get real and stop trying to be throw that junk in her trunk around. Mr o is potus and not king. The feeding frenzy they invited has begun.

    January 23, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  7. Ari

    'Funny how many Rep. claim to be christians yet they write some of the most hateful comments I've ever seen…' comment from MAD

    I have seen more then enough cruel comments out of the mouths of both Reps. and Dems. And since over 80% of this country is suppose to be Christian of some sort, that would make plenty of Dems. hateful too.

    January 23, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  8. Mother Jeannie

    People should not buy them and let the company suffer for their stupid mistake. You can't take the face or name of peoples kids and market them for you own benefit or profit. Sue the h*** out of this company.

    January 23, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  9. stealinginnocence

    It would be one thing if the Ty company acknowledged their attempts to capitalize on this moment in history. While it would still be wrong for them to exploit the likeness and identity of minor children without express permission there would probably be less outrage.

    What's truly offensive is Ty's ludicrous attempts to claim that Sasha an Malia Obama are NOT the inspiration for the "bronze" dolls that just so happen to be named Malia and Sasha and released just in time for the inauguration. Adding the cherry on top of their BS pie is the video that greets you on the Ty website's homepage...close your eyes and you'll hear a melody strangely reminiscent of the song Beyonce performed during the Obama's first dance.

    At last...a boycott I can feel good about.

    January 23, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  10. Lynn

    I agree with Jon in CA. When you run for public officeand live in the White House, you give up a certain amount of privacy. You cant have it both ways. I hope the Obama's thought of this BEFORE now. I agree the company doesnt have the right to exploit anyone, but the First family WILLINGLY stepped into public life. Take the good with the bad, your kids are now very public figures!

    January 23, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  11. Sian

    The part of this story that irritates me most is the response by Ty. How dumb do they think people are to buy their response that no, these two dolls named Sasha and Malia, who also happen to be their only African-American dolls in the Ty Girlz collection, and who's release was timed for maximum impact with the inaugeration, and who's hair styles happen to be what the real Malia and Sasha have often been seen wearing (the ponytail on Malia, the two braids on Sasha)..... that no, these two dolls bear no resemblance and were not based on Malia and Sasha Obama, it's just some accidental coincidence. C'mon, even Sarah Palin wouldn't be dumb enough to buy all that moosecrap.

    Just be honest, Ty, it's obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt that your 2 new dolls are indeed based entirely on the Obama girls. Fess up and simply try to right the wrong somehow, but don't lie. And knowing Michelle's history of trying to help in many causes, if you had simply approached her and asked to base a doll on the girls, with all or most of the profit going to a worthy children's cause, she probably would have at least listened and considered it. She still may have said "no" in the end, but that's a parent's perogotive. But what Ty did, and how they did it, was simply wrong, on all levels.

    January 23, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |

    Ty is incredibly disgusting and tacky for this. They have the nerve to insult the intelligence of consumers by claiming that they didn't get the inspiration for names of those ugly dolls from the First Daughters. Yea right! I hope they get their pants sued off of them. How dare they use those little children like that to make sales? They clearly had those raggidy little ugly dolls sitting around and decided to attach the first daughter's names on them when they realized the admiration that a lot of people have for our new First Family. That is so disrespectful. Those ugly dolls don't even look like those girls. If First Lady Michelle and President Obama want a doll made in the likeness and image of their children, it should be their decision. It all should be done on their terms; which includes dolls made from scratch, approved by the First Family, and one that really looks like the girls. It is wrong to slap those childrens name on some ugly dolls as a last minute scheme to move those dolls off of store shelves. President Obama and First Lady Michelle have made it clear several times that they want to maintain a normal life for their girls. Ty is crossing the line big time on this one. TY is disgusting to me, and I would never ever purchase anything from a company that is greedy enough to exploit and distrupt the lives of innocent children.

    January 23, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  13. erika morgan

    Michelle is rightfully outraged!

    January 23, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  14. geebob

    That is probably the LAMEST corporate statement. It sounds like my 7 year old trying to lie.

    January 23, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  15. jdquest

    Decent people do not believe in exploiting children, no matter who their parents are. There should not have been so much exploitation and invasion of privacy of Sarah Palin's childfren, Gearge Bush's or President Obama's . Personally, I think there is way too much hatred in the world . Even though I didn't vote for him, I agree with the first President Bush's hope for "a kinder gentler America.

    January 23, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  16. Mrs Grossman

    give her part of the profit and believe me, she'll change her mind. She doesn't mind releasing the "cutsie" photos when it serves their purpose, now does she?

    January 23, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  17. Chris

    It's quite clear that the people here who've said comments to the extent that Mrs. Obama should get used to it, have no children of their own. Why? Lets say that you had children that were being exploited (for whatever purpose). Are you saying that you would just go along with it? No, you wouldn't.

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

    Maybe the Ty company can get federal funding from the Obama administration to abort the production of the millions of “Sweet Sasha” and “Marvelous Malia” dolls. Not to mention looking at the enormous press covergae over the past few weeks. The Obama's themselves did not enforce any privacy restrictions on CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS and tabloid shows Entertainment Tonight coverage of their daughter This was bound to happen. No-one complained when Robot Chicken did a spot on the Bush twins.

    January 23, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  19. Greg

    Does this mean that she's not proud of her country again???

    January 23, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  20. Monica

    The difference between these dolls and the Bush bobbleheads is that Bush is an ADULT and was a public servant of the United States. These girls are MINORS and did not even ASK to be the President's daughters, they had no choice in the matter. Their mother is 100% right to protect them like this. Just because Billy Ray Cyrus says it's ok for there to be dolls based on his daughters likeness doesn't mean other famous people want the same for their kids.

    January 23, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  21. kada

    Come on people on inaguration day some creep was saying you could see Malia's naked body on YouTube and I hope he gets a visit from. Secret Service. How awful to tell her to suck it up. Palin had her children on the campaign.trail so what was wrong with the Obama girls talking to their dad on a screen? As we can see. First Lady is taking this week to make sure the girls adjust to school and they haven't been seen since Tuesday! I know some of you are bitter, full of hate for the Obama's mainly because they are BLACK but you must get over it. Don't spend your next 8 yrs being bitter and hateful. You can do it. YES YOU CAN!

    January 23, 2009 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  22. Americans for an Objective Media

    Dawn, the letter to the Obama girls was not, I repeat not written by Bush's daughters, the letter was written by someone else just to make Bush look like a good father. Sort of like Milli Vanilli...

    January 23, 2009 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  23. UnitedStates1776

    The chances of a company just happening to select Malia and Sasha as the names of two new dolls is probably about a BILLION TO ONE. Unless of course you already knew of a certain set of famous daughters named Malia and Sasha.

    This company is just low. Better to buy from one that has some integrity and doesn't exploit famous young children without their parents permission.

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

    If it were my daughter that was made into a doll without my permission I would be pissed too. And showing your family in support of their father is not shamefull it is BEING A FAMILY. God repubs will not stop at anything to bash the Obamas. GET OVER IT, OBAMA IS PRESIDENT NOT MCCAIN!!!

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

    It looks like the Obama's missed thinking about what they did by putting their family in the public eye. They cannot sue or take any action because they are technically "public figures" – that's all there is to it.

    January 23, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39