The journalists at Good Morning America on Tuesday offered a gushing, excited look at Michelle Obama's "extended vacation" in Hawaii, offering no questions or skepticism about what the trip will cost taxpayers. Entertainment reporter Lara Spencer enthused, "This morning, there are reports that Mrs. Obama is spending the rest of her stay with her good friend Oprah Winfrey at her estate on the island of Maui. Winfrey will also be celebrating a milestone birthday." [MP3 audio here.]
Spencer hyped the First Lady's impending birthday, touting, "Word is there won't be a formal dinner but there will be plenty of dancing. She does love to dance and we wish her a very happy birthday." On Monday, Fox News reporter Ed Henry quizzed White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: "The First Lady stayed behind and the White House said that was an early birthday present from the President. Does that mean he's paying for the flight back or taxpayers?"
On GMA, Spencer played part of Carney's joking reply: "You know that telling your spouse they can go spend a week away from home is a big present...Not that we don't love our kids." But GMA overlooked the issue of the taxpayers.
To Fox's Henry, Carney did briefly assert, "As with all personal travel, the first family will appropriately fund personal expenses...The First Lady will travel via government aircraft."
However, Britain's Daily Mail reported:
In addition to the cost of flying a government aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base to Hawaii and back, U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of Mrs. Obama's Secret Service protection detail – and for any additional security that Winfrey's home and neighborhood might require.
TMZ reported Monday that 'security on the island is airtight, with SWAT teams and just about every other resource securing wide perimeters around Michelle.'
On June 18, 2013, GMA reporter Linsey Davis fawned over the Obama family's "beautiful" vacation, avoiding any hint of extravagance. That trip cost between $60 and $100 million.
A transcript of the January 7 GMA segment is below:
ABC GRAPHIC: First Lady's Birthday With Oprah: Extends Vacation in Hawaii
ROBIN ROBERTS: The one place where it's not below zero is Hawaii. And who is there?
LARA SPENCER: Well, the First Lady has good luck. Now, to the first family. President Barack Obama at work at the White House and the Obama daughters are back in school but as we said, the first lady is still in Hawaii for an early birthday gift. It's an extended vacation and some good girl time with a good pal. We're learning more about the first lady's extended vacation. Almost 4800 miles away on the white sands of Hawaii. Press secretary Jay Carney explaining it was the president's suggestion Michelle stay on vacation for an extra few days while he returned to Washington with Sasha and Malia.
JAY CARNEY: You have kids. You know that telling your spouse they can go spend a week away from home is a big present. So – not that we don't love our kids.
SPENCER: He also revealed the extended have a situation was an early birthday present of sorts less than two weeks before the First Lady turns the big 5-0.
CARNEY: Her decision to remaining at the President's suggestion in Hawaii to spend time with friends ahead of her upcoming very big birthday.
SPENCER: This morning, there are reports that Mrs. Obama is spending the rest of her stay with her good friend Oprah Winfrey at her estate on the island of Maui. Winfrey will also be celebrating a milestone birthday. She turns 60 just two weeks after the First Lady and the birthday festivities will continue when Michelle returns to the capital. The White House has sent out invitations for a party in her honor. Word is there won't be a formal dinner but there will be plenty of dancing. She does love to dance and we wish her a very happy birthday. Oprah too, by the way.