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. dina mendes

    yep...american are definetely back to their ignorant know all tunel vision political views where everything goes...yep...the hope of a new america was shortlived.....oh well lets see how long before they kill Obama!!!

    January 24, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  2. Bishop

    The ignorance posted in response to this is just unacceptable. One would hope that people with the sense to be connected would use their connectivity in a more constructive way. First, this have nothing to do with the First Lady (not Michelle, you disrespectful person) being full of herself. It is not appropriate; but of course, their not little white girls so no harm no foul right?

    Forget your personal feelings about having a black President, these are CHILDREN!!! Was there a Chelsea Doll? Amy Doll? Bush Twins Doll? (Even though they gave pretty of material to create a doll.) The answer in no because it's in poor taste.

    And for those of you, who stated you wanted the spotlight so it comes with the territory, understand that, unlike many of you spineless, cowardly morons with average intelligence, not everyone can be bought like a commodity. Many deceit Americans (black and white) have morals and believe in a higher calling and purpose for our lives. We believe that the standards should be the same and not change because the color of our skin changes. We also believe in protecting and nurturing our children and not having them exploited because of a decision that we as parents make, particularly if those decisions are in the interest of public service.

    Has America not exploited Black people enough? (Enslavement, Jim Crow, NBA, NFL, etc.) It was not long ago that four little girls were bombed and killed in a church basement, a place that was suppose to be sacred. Yet, this company, and many who agree with their actions for whatever reason, has bombed and are willing to violate the sanctity of the First Family, and the natural essence of who these little girls are to make a buck. Are we really willing to give them our blessings to do so?

    January 24, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  3. Linda

    No more TY products in my House. These children are the only African-American worthy of your attention, TY is not worthy of my dollar.

    January 24, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  4. david

    the obama's put the children in the spotlight so they are fair game. if they didn't want the children in the spotlight, they should have done what the clintons did with chelsea when they kept her off the political stage. the children are now fair game.

    January 24, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  5. Penny

    Sorry, but the problem many of you fail to understand is that TY is saying the Obama girls's names are not inspirations for the dolls names and likeness. Why didn't they pick Alyssa and Ariana? The dolls just happent to be African American and not white. GIVE ME A BREAK!!! I think Michelle would have cut them some slack if they had been honest about the using the same names PERIOD!!! TY needs to be honest that they picked both of these names based on the Obama girls. They could have picked two other names, but they did not!!!

    January 24, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  6. marquis

    Let me say this for everyone!!!! This issue does not speak to the fairness that Palin's daughter, the Bush twins, and chelsea clinton were unfairly treated by the press and other supporters!!

    THIS SPEAKS DIRECTLY TO A CORPORATION EXPLOITING UNDERAGE KIDS TO MAKE A PROFIT FOR THEMSELVES....this behavior is unacceptable in america whether you are a believer or nonbeliever we do not allow our kids to be exploited for profit!!

    January 24, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  7. Joy

    I agree that Ty should have gotten permission before they made these dolls. Like is or not, they are public figures but Michelle has the right and the responsibility to protect them as much as she can. I believe she does that. She and Obama will make mistakes in that but this is not going to be an easy life for those girls. The public outrage however is a bit over the top. Where was the outrage when Sara Palins children were hammered by the media. That deserved equal if not more outrage than this blip on the radar.

    January 24, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  8. Larsen

    This is normal marketing - consider it a compliment. I am not of the same background as the girls – but did have an Amasandra doll years ago and see nothing wrong with it. There are those who would love to have the dolls – as a part of our history. They are darling – as are the girls.

    January 24, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |

    This is absolutely nuts and total sillyness to have a story like this
    get so much attention, myself included!. I think we are all missing the
    point here. Toys made in China, the China debt, and the state of our
    sad, sad country. And this story has gotten almost 400 comments!!!
    Me included!!!!!!!

    January 24, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  10. Kate P. from St. Louis

    I completely agree with Mrs. Obama. I'm happy they responded.

    January 24, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  11. Wally

    Regardless of private citizen, public image....this is inappropriate. Ty should not cross these lines. Does everything and everyone have to be exploited?

    January 24, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  12. cheryl

    I agree with our First Lady. I agree with Sarah Palin. They are both right that their children are off limits. I agree with any public official holding office or any public figure including the spouse of a public figure that their children should not be used as a marketing tool, mis-represented or maligned in a public forum, or simply discussed as a news topic in any forum. The children are not the public figures. The representation of our president of the US put on a commerative t-shirt, votive candle, or plate or coin is absolutely fine because HE is the public figure. Of course it is greedy and horrific, but is it is also opportunitism and capitalism. We should be glad that we CAN do these things in our economy but TY went too far with the Obama children and the dolls. Shame on them for being so greedy.

    January 24, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  13. Eileen

    It's just wrong. No matter who their father is they shouldn't be used to sell anything. They manufacturer should be ashamed of themselves. Leave those kids alone!

    January 24, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  14. krisylou

    I think Michelle is just upset because she is being left out! Barack has so many items with his likeness on them, now the girls have the dolls. What does she have????

    January 24, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  15. Ugh

    Those are some really ugly dolls. I guess Ty needed a stunt to make them sell!

    January 24, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  16. David

    They may be "public" in a sense, but they didn't pick the job, their parents did. So, they are private. And as private citizens, it looks to me, like selling likenesses of them without permission or paying them royalties is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    What do you think would happen if somebody stuck Miley Cirus's name on something without permission.

    January 24, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  17. The Artful Dodger

    What's next? A Ty Bush voodoo doll?

    January 24, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  18. Paula Henderson

    Suggestion: No one Buy Dolls

    January 24, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  19. Bill

    The fact that a company like Ty would blatantly rip off somebody's name and likeness and say "it's just a coincidence" for the sole purpose of not having to pay royalties is a pretty sad statement about our society. The fact that people will actually buy them is even worse.

    January 24, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  20. ea

    And before you people start harping on "image" as opposed to name. Notice how the Tygirlz don't seem to include any other black figures except for these two with the Obama daughters' names. Ty's idiotic smokescreen about the source of inspiration doesn't help. This looks like appropriating the whole image (even though ths is soft doll).

    January 24, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  21. Kelsey

    To those complaining about Sarah Palin's kids not getting the same respect:

    Obama said when Bristol Palin's pregnancy came out to leave her alone, that President/Candidates children were off limits. So please, do not even tell me that Democrats did not give you the same respect. I heard many times from my fellow Democrats that the Palin children should be left alone because they are not the ones in the campaign. And guess what? After that, you didn't hear much about the Palin children, except when they showed up to an event and people mentioned it, as they did the Obama children, or on celebrity gossip sites (Perezhilton.com) So, please now give us the same respect that the new President gave you. Thanks!

    January 24, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  22. California Voter

    Couple of points: Malia and Sasha are public figures for better or worse, their dad is the President. The girls were brought on stage numerous times during the campaign– was that exploitation! Guess it depends on who is doing the exploiting. There are lots of people selling Obama things, as there were selling Bush and Cheney items. And if Ty has done nothing illegal then this is a "free" country, right? What about the dress designers that Michelle is "exploiting".

    January 24, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  23. Paul

    What a bunch of cry-babies! Exploit them when you need them, but "protect" them when the election is over. What goes around comes around!

    January 24, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  24. Stan From NJ

    Come on! We elected you because we love you! Don't forget the people who made you who you are today! I don't see what wrong for average people to love and want part of the first family in their houses.

    January 24, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  25. RyanD.

    This issue here is the company is outright LYING and also did not bother to make a doll of color UNTIL it would benefit them monetarily.

    THAT is the issue.

    January 24, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
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