Elizabeth Lauten and Lessons about Online Statements

I’m sure you’ve heard about the terrible comments made about the Obama daughters by Elizabeth Lauten. If you haven’t? The short version is that she slammed them on social media about being “classless” and dressing like “bar girls”. Their crime? Making funny faces during the President’s turkey pardon. The ridiculousness of it all? They’re 13 and 16 years old. You know, kids. Needless to say, Lauten (a GOP aide) issued an apology on social media and later resigned from her position after much valid backlash.

President Obama and Sasha & Malia at the Turkey Pardon

President Obama and Sasha & Malia at the Turkey Pardon

Why is it bad? You just don’t attack kids online. Period. It’s not right with Blue Ivy. It’s not okay with North West. It’s not okay with Honey Boo Boo. It’s also not okay with the Obama girls especially when you work for the government. Her resignation wasn’t a shocker at all. In fact, that was the smartest thing she did. We’ve got to be careful what we say on social media, who we say it about and when we say it. If Elizabeth Lauten had said, “Wow, those Obama girls sure weren’t on their best behavior during the turkey pardoning,” then no one would have been angry. But to chastise them about their style of dress, call them classless and attack their parents in a single statement? That’s not okay. It’s called bullying, which is unacceptable. Reckless wording on social media has been the death of many a’ career.

And then, she apologized.

The apology read as insincere or super heartfelt, depending on who you ask. Forbes contributor, Elisa Doucette, even went so far as to develop a more appropriate apology that Elizabeth Lauten could have stated. Her primary point stated that one should apologize to the individuals she actually attacked and personally address them. I get it

But, truthfully? At this point, because of the skepticism that comes along with making important statements via social media–whatever apology Elizabeth Lauten might have issued would have not been good enough. We’ll never know if an Olivia Pope-esque crisis management fixer ordered Lauten to apologize or if her fear for her job (which she ended up not keeping) motivated it. Because we don’t live in Lauten’s head and heart, we’ll never know if she meant what she said in her apology. This is why it doesn’t entirely benefit us to keep going over it.


What we can take away from this is the understanding that statements made on social media can go either way. No one could see it or millions could see it. No one could care or millions could care. No one might believe you or everyone could believe you. Because of the flimsiness of social media reception, you’d better be committed to the things you say on your platforms. Be prepared to stand by them, own them and take whatever consequences come your way because no matter how sorry you are, the whimsicality of social media spectators could mean that the damage remains done. Our offline life doesn’t always affect our online life, but our online life can always affect our offline life.

Know and understand the nature of social media before you post. Type accordingly.

Social media

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