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. newt

    Next Ty will come out with a doll exploiting Palin's retarded son.

    January 24, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  2. linda

    I Ty gets away with this.... then the profits should go to a charity chosen by the Obama family...

    January 24, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |



    January 24, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  4. Georgia grandmother

    Good for you, Mrs. Obama.

    I would not like to see my young grandchildren commercially exploited. I don't recall seeing any Caroline Kennedy or Amy Carter or Chelsea Clinton or Jenna and Barbara Bush dolls advertised when they lived in the White House.

    January 24, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  5. kef

    lighten up America, oh you want your husband to be president but don't with the spotlight that comes with it, guess what too bad. once he won the presidency your life's became an open forum and all that goes with it so madam president, get use to it. if its ok your me to hear about every ex slaves grandchild that's so proud then its ok to help the economy by getting a good market product out there.

    January 24, 2009 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  6. r sisk, nevada

    Ty is the tackiest so this does not surprise me at all.

    These children are famous now and we will watch them grow up as we have other white house children. Michelle has every right to be upset with these toys. For those of you mean spirited types, they have never used their kids as promotional instruments. The Obamas have done quite the opposite and now have the daunting task of raising their children in a fish bowl while trying to provide them a childhood.

    January 24, 2009 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  7. greg

    yes, michelle is correct...........ty is usung those children to boost sales. shame on ty...............................dont buy that crap

    January 24, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  8. Gerda Edwards

    Good for Ty.

    Doesn't it make sense that if we're really going to get beyond racial divisions, that we should have dolls named something other than Sweet Susan, and Marvelous Mary? Hmmm...how about something more ethnic? Hmmm...are there any popular names out there now??? Hmmm...any prediction that there will be a spike in the number of girls named Sasha or Malia now????

    The Obama's don't have a trademark on "Sasha" and "Malia," and last I knew, it was a free country.

    January 24, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  9. just wanna move on

    Hey, DLH , citizen of the world, Bush is gone. Can't you let go? Maybe you're just afraid Obama will fail and have to get that "oh, it was all Bush's fault" excuse ready.

    That aside, I do think the dolls are tacky and I would not have done that. This is, however a free market and Ty can do whatever they think is necessary to make money. It is the choice of the consumer as to whether or not to purchase the product.

    January 24, 2009 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  10. Betty J Berger

    I am not sure what Michelle Obama means that her daughters are "Private Citizens"
    How can that be?
    Their father is US President, and that leaves any turn to be adopted about these 2 girls.
    Ty has made millions of dolls and if Princess Diana can be chosen as one of these ... then Michele Obama needs to define Free Enterprise to the states at large. Agree?
    betty jo

    January 24, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  11. Elaine

    As much as I have been trying to find a decent black baby doll for my child, these two dolls are in no way shape or form close to anything black or politically correct African American. As always people will find an easy way to make money and so the cycle continues....

    January 24, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  12. Rick Sutter

    This is hilarious. Aren't we trying to kick-start the economy? Give them a break.

    January 24, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  13. Dan

    I totally agree... using these little girls to sell merchandise without their consent and obviously against their wishes is appalling and Ty should be ashamed of themselves.

    January 24, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  14. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    Why don't they just have the proceeds of the sales of the two dolls go to disadvantage urban youth centers around the country.

    January 24, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  15. yani

    I agree with Michelle, they are children; they don't need this type of attention. Besides, the Obama's could sue all these crazy manufacturers.

    January 24, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. mayah

    Won't buy those babies, BETCHA... surely out of line... dispicable..

    January 24, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  17. William

    A. The First Lady has the right to disclose her OPINION of discontent about the dolls.

    B. Ethically, the girls should be off limits–in my opinion–as SHOULD have been the case with any of the other offspring in the campaigns, however, we are not ETHICAL beings. If we were, our economy would be in working good shape right now because there would be no individuals or companies taking advantage (cashing in) on the tax payer.

    Bottom Line: I don't think Ty has done anything illegal. Disrespectful-yes-but everything these days can be viewed as disrespectful. If the parents of the children of tomorrow think that their offsprings' futures need to be more grounded and less complicated, then they shouldn't buy the dolls. Ty would quit making them if there are no sales, and the consumers have made a statement of change. If the parents of the children of tomorrow think that their offspring have nothing to worry about in the future and buy the dolls, then no change has been made and the route chosen, was made by the futures of the world.

    January 24, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  18. Jen

    those that say the same thing about Palin and privacy.. her kids were not exploited by the media at least not yet.. only their lives were talked about. But all kids in a high profile family will be talked about. Palin is also.. like a guilty person... crying innocent on alot of her family scandals.

    Obamas on the other hand.. they put their daughters out there to show themselves as a supportive family. They will be in the limelight, they will be talked about. BUT... to make something after someone to sell that has not had permission to do so.. can cause alot of legal problems. I dont think TY just came up with these names with dolls that look like the Obama girls and this is something ironic that happend. I do believe they got the idea and mirrored the girls for these dolls. Doing so would have been better if they had approached the Obamas for their permission first.

    There is a difference in talking about high profile people, and taking innocent kids that have done no wrong and take their image for a toy and market it without prior approval.

    Just my opinion. THose that say tough whatever... put yourself in their shoes. If I was part of a presidential family I know I will get media and watched by the media etc... but to take my image and my name and put it on a toy to sell kids... its a different story.

    January 24, 2009 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  19. margaret

    I cannot believe Ty is stooping so low, and no more Ty products are coming into our house. Ever. If someone could find an e-mail or snail address to contact the company, I'd love to - but amazingly, their website gives no such information! Jerks. It has been a long tradition to LEAVE THE KIDS ALONE, and it needs to continue.

    January 24, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  20. Tom from MD

    I never take anyone that uses the phrase 'those on the left' seriously.

    January 24, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  21. Marie

    Let's talk about the fact that the dolls are a direct violation of copyright infringement towards the Groovey Girl line. Those dolls look exactly like the Groovey girls and I am surprised that the Groovey girl company has not started legal action. Ty co. stick to your useless stuffed animals and stop trying to copy other successful toys or dolls. You had a niche if it has past and gone-reinvent yourself. But use your own ideas, not someone else's. The Brats doll line just got sued by Barbie for similiar infringements.

    January 24, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  22. Amara

    I would sue the company.

    January 24, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  23. ran

    If they can I hope the Obamas sue.

    January 24, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  24. sp

    Okay– as members of the First Family (with their pictures on just about everything from t-shirts to magazine covers) the girls are public figures and great role models for all children. I'd be more upset that Ty didn't discuss the product with the family first and that both dolls look EXACTLY the same. Which is Malia and which is Sasha? Perhaps they could have gotten the girls involved by allowing them to choose the final design, or the clothes. Otherwise, it's no different than the millions of other Obama products out there. I'm happy that children of all races will be purchasing them. How often does that happen?

    January 24, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  25. Linda

    The girls are NOT public figures. Michelle – yes because she has an official role to play in the Obama administration. But the minor children should be off limits.

    January 24, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
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