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. Anonymous

    "Where was the outcry when the media made a big deal about Bristol Palin's pregnancy? "

    I don't know how you missed it because it was everywhere. Democrats have their fanatics too but the majority of us were very critical of any political use of Palin's children – even when it was the candidate who was using them.

    January 24, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  2. saiful

    Hmm.... why not?

    January 24, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  3. Donna Wisconsin

    Excuse me, but these girls were never used as 'tools' during the Election! I believe it was always Palin bringing her children to all these events, flying them everywhere. Not the Obama's. Grandma stayed with them and they went to school. So yes this is just a company trying to make money. Tho on the other hand I do see this family as being wonderful, positive role models for all children and adults. Really nice to have a President and his family instead of celebretys and sports figures as as models! The Bushes certainly weren't!

    January 24, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  4. Rave

    People, we are talking about bottomline Idiocracy here by the TY.
    I think this company just crossed the line
    For people who think it is Ok to use the little girls names... then, maybe they should also come up with a Bush Whiskey, Jenna Rum & Barbara Gin.. cause the whole family were drunks.

    January 24, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  5. democrat to a republican

    Who put our country in this situation ???Democratic house and Democratic Senate not the President you people need a reality check.
    Obama 's need to adjust there positions and make it clear . What do we know about them or him for that matter . If they want us to know the kids so be it. They are rich kids getting richer and the poor will stay poor it's the politics for years to come he nor any one else will ever change that and if you think you changed it by voting for Obama sorry not goin happen. Stop spending my money for their gain . You all should be more worried about keeping your house than this or your jjob or pension 401K. They will never care about weather you can feed your kids or clothe them. You are beneath them. WAKE UP AMERICAN!!!!

    January 24, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  6. gaye gregory

    Totally out of line.This company will never see a penny from me.Let these precious girls live as normal a life as possible.

    January 24, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Parents who wish to protect their kids' privacy don't pose with them on the cover of People magazine or agree to interviews with Access Hollywood.

    January 24, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  8. Rob W in Bethesda, MD

    This is how it works in America. Get over it. That being said, Ty should make these dolls in the USA (I suspect these are chinese made). At least that way Malia and Sasha could get credit for creating some American jobs. That's the real tragedy here.

    January 24, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  9. doughboy

    I think that the Obama children should be totally off limits. The media and papparizi should leave them alone for security reasons. The more that they are exposed to the limelight the more chance there will be for predators of all kinds to learn their habits. Once these people learn the children's habits and routines it will leave them vulnerable.

    January 24, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  10. Jessica Grimes From Dallas

    get over it.

    January 24, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |

    no mother would deprive her daughters of this chance of a little lifetime. let them enjoy the business. my dad made a deal about me over a tom collins martini. men can sell, michelle. period. enjoy the business.

    January 24, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  12. John

    If TY had come out and said "These children are public figures and popular which will help us sell these dolls," I would say they have interesting argument. I may not agree, but it is at least a defensible rationale. But don't say that the only pair of black dolls put out for sale just happens to have the names of the first children by coincidence. I can respect someone I disagree with but I can't respect someone who believes I am stupid enough to believe that.

    January 24, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  13. davmach1

    I bet ther are a lot of people out there looking to make money off of the Obama's

    Dave extramoolatoday.com

    January 24, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  14. Patrick

    While all the while, our men and women in uniform are dying in the illegal Iraqui war and the forgotten Afghan war. Sad commentary on today's society that dolls are getting the front page attention instead of Bush's impeachable acts, and our soldiers dying because of it.

    January 24, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  15. Indiana Steven

    I would suggest that the Disney Company enter into a good will agreement with the Obama family. In exchange for exclusive rights to all of the images of the Obama family, Disney will not use the images until 25 years after the death of the last surviving member of the family. However, in the meantime, Disney will aggressively pursue any infringement on their rights.
    Disney is perhaps one of the most protective of their copyrights and has tremendous experience in doing it. This proposal has the advantage of a for-profit firm protecting its intellectual property rights while the Obama family could not do so without sounding petty.
    I feel the Obamas have every right to take any measures to protect the privacy of their family.

    January 24, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. Jessica Grimes From Dallas

    Oh yeah... great idea... lets boycott a company while our economy is in the crapper. Gosh, you fellow Americans are sooooo super duper smart.

    January 24, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. Barack wins and we collectively lose.

    Is this Priority 1 for this adminstration? Don't worry, Obama will shrink the private sector so that nobody will be selling anything soon.

    January 24, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  18. bob

    both the dolls look the same, with different hairstyles. Not very impressive and the first lady is correct in stating that the company is out of line. People, don't be fooled by these idiots trying to profit on the backs of a popular president.

    January 24, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  19. aware

    Give it up Michelle! Get a life – do something for needy people!

    You and Barack have been selling your girl's images for a very long time! Barack even made his supposedly private letter to the girls available for public consumption!

    January 24, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  20. Cathy

    People should not but the dolls. They are very ugly too.

    January 24, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  21. Sally

    I think this is a lot of hullabaloo over something that is pretty common in a consumer driven society.

    BTW, has anyone seen the new Chia Pet? Obama's head frowing green hair. I thought that was kind of humorous. About the girls, I am not so sure.

    January 24, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  22. Sarah

    Sick. I will never ever buy TY products again, nor will I accept them as a gift. I will tell all of my friends and family to boycott. Yes, the Obama family may be in the media light now, but that doesn't give any good reason to expoilt two innocent girls just so a company can make a profit. I hope their plan doesn't go through.

    January 24, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  23. Catriana

    Using the image of a person under the age of 18 without their parent/guardian's consent is wrong, end of story. I don't care that some people on here are arguing that they are now "public" figures, that's irrelevant. It's funny, I don't remember Ty releasing dolls of the Bush twins 8 years ago. I don't remember Ty releasing dolls based on Palin's children. Michelle Obama is well within her rights as a parent to call Ty out on this bad decision.

    If companies choose to use images of people over the age of 18, that's up to them and the lawyers to figure out. I hope their cheesy marketing ploy backfires. I, for one, won't be buying Ty products again. Using the economy as a reason for being ok with this decision is also ridiculous – job creation through questionable ethical decisions is not the way to go about "creating" new jobs.

    And for the record, President Obama doesn't have much of a choice about what is being marketed using his image. I'm sure he's not getting a percentage. It would be useless to try to stem that tide, and he's not complaining because he CAN'T really complain, can he? But he and Michelle can do whatever they feel they need to do to protect their children from similar circumstances.

    January 24, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  24. Ivan

    While it is deplorable for the worship of money to precede dignity , restraint and decorum (words which have practically lost their meaning in America), I see this as just another storm in a teacup. At least there is nothing negative or derogatory about these dolls, and little girls will see them as an important part of history (maybe). Better than T-shirts being sold in the fresh vicinity of the WTC disaster.

    January 24, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  25. Renee

    1. This company is trying to market a product that is obviously named after the first children. they should be ashamed.
    2. If this were a story about them -I dunno_ getting caught drinking underage or getting knocked up while still in high school, it would NOT be expoitation. There's a difference between making money off of a story and making money off of a product.
    3. Why did Ty wait until NOW to come out with the doll? If anything they should have saved face and renamed the dolls.
    4. On the flip side, was this REALLY unexpected? I have seen so many commemorative Obama crap that it's ridicuous. EVERYONE including our local newspaper is trying to cash in with rarely-seen-before packages. This is an exciting moment in history and everyone wants their piece of it, and its not shocking that everyone will take advantage of it in any way they can.

    January 24, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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