A Note About Tennessee Family Values

Elizabeth Lauten, former communications director for Rep. Steven Fincher (R-TN08)

How … interesting. And you can take that proverbially or not as per your inclination. But consider this: Elizabeth Lauten has resigned.

Some might wonder who the hell Elizabeth Lauten actually is, and they would likely not be wrong to do so. Well, unless they happened to be a regular follower of the ins and outs of Rep. Steven Fincher (R-TN08), whose communications director reminded us all of the relationship between Republicans and family values.

A GOP staffer will resign after launching a verbal assault on Malia and Sasha Obama in the wake of their appearance at the president’s annual turkey pardoning ceremony last week at the White House.

Elizabeth Lauten, who served as a communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), criticized the two girls in a Facebook rant which eventually went viral. “Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, public events,” wrote Lauten.

She also said that the Obama daughters, who largely stay out of the limelight, should show “a little class.”

Many have argued Malia and Sasha were behaving like typical teenagers at the event. They appeared unamused by their father’s corny jokes and at one point Malia declined to pet the Thanksgiving turkey by simply saying, “Nah.”

You might recall we mentioned this episode recently, in an attempt to fill space in an otherwise useless post about a really stupid American holiday tradition celebrating a mythical act of human decency. And while it is one thing to point out that it is Gawker, and wonder what else we should expect, one might think a communications director for a sitting congressman should know better.

Then again, why would she? These are Tennessee family values she expressed, as made clear by David Plazas, writing on behalf of the editorial board of The Tennessean:

It didn’t have to be that way. It should have been one of those moments where maybe she was bothered, maybe she started writing, maybe she starting thinking (and maybe praying) and then hopefully realized, “Maybe I shouldn’t post this on the Internet.” Next step: Hit delete.

No chance. Lauten posted her snarky letter, and worse yet, once she faced the backlash, she deleted her missive – a cardinal sin in a space where everything lasts forever even if you hope it doesn’t.

Lauten ironically posted an apology on Facebook and confirmed on Monday to NBC News that she was resigning. “I quickly judged the two young ladies in a way that I would never have wanted to be judged myself as a teenager,” said Lauten, according to a USA TODAY article.

The sad thing is that her post led to far greater consequences to her than riling up partisan animus. It led to character assassination of her.

Gawker.com posted a story of Lauten’s arrest as a teenager for shoplifting. A meme started circulating on social media of a photo depicting Lauten consuming alcohol in a, shall we say, less than classy way.

Just so we have it clear, in Tennessee, it is okay for an adult with a position of responsibility to go after teenagers for acting in a manner we commonly associate with teenagers, but that adult’s teenage misbehavior is off-limits, lest one “assassinate” her “character”?

That isn’t character assassination, except perhaps in Tennessee, where fair is fair even when it’s hypocritical because you take care of your own.

“This didn’t need to happen”, Plazas complains, and he is correct. “In this case,” he continues, the irresponsibility “happened to be a Republican congressional aide making snide remarks about the daughters of a Democrat [sic] president, so it went viral.” Mr. Plazas needs to recognize that viral exposure was exactly what one intends when a congressional aide goes after the president’s minor children. That is to say, it went viral because it was supposed to, and Ms. Lauten simply got devoured by an ouroboros of her own devising.

There is an obvious rule to observe: If you’re going after some famous person’s kids, think thrice. And then think again just to be certain.

But there is also an obvious rule that needs to be reminded: Fair is fair, even in Tennessee. You know, sauce for the goose? Or is that just a Utah-Michigan-Massachusetts thing?

And an obvious note for Mr. Plazas: Elizabeth Lauten is not the victim here.

Well, unless you happen to be The Tennessean.


Howard, Adam. “GOP staffer to resign after slamming Obama girls”. msnbc. 30 November 2014.

Plazas, David. “Editorial: Delete the snark, not the Facebook post”. The Tennessean. 2 December 2014.

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