'I'm not some kind of angry black woman' says Michelle Obama

America's First Lady uses TV interview to hit out at rumours that she's losing Barack friends and alienating Washington's powerful people

Washington

"A trouble-maker, me? An "angry black woman" who dislikes living in the White House, who's constantly interfering in her husband's official business, and who hates going out on the campaign trail with him? Not me, no way, Michelle Obama declared yesterday. But the very fact the questions were posed is testament to her influence.

If the First Lady is to be believed, she hasn't so much as glanced at the controversial new book The Obamas by Jodi Kantor, a reporter for The New York Times. It is the first detailed behind-the-scenes look at the presidential couple, depicting Michelle as an unseen force in the administration, who clashes with aides and chafes at the constraints of life within a mansion once described by Harry Truman as "the crown jewel of the American penal system".

"I never read these books," Ms Obama told Gayle King of CBS in a rare interview, "I've just gotten in the habit of not reading other people's impressions of people." In truth, she said, "I love this job". Of course, there were difficulties – most notably to ensure that "my girls [Malia and Sasha]" emerged unscathed from life in the White House fishbowl. Nonetheless, being First Lady had been "a privilege from day one".

First Ladies are always influential. Some, like Hillary Clinton, who led Bill's healthcare reform effort, and Rosalynn Carter, who used to attend Jimmy's cabinet meetings, were virtually official advisers. Others, like Laura Bush, have been quiet and self-effacing. Most powerful of all probably was Nancy Reagan, who terrorised staff and used an astrologer to help shape Ronald's schedule.

But the reason for their influence is the same: the "pillow talk" factor, the private time a First Lady spends with the most powerful man in the world.

Among her recent predecessors, Ms Obama perhaps most closely resembles Ms Clinton. But every First Lady has faced the challenge of preserving a modicum of family normality.

The book tells of tensions between Michelle and two of the President's closest former advisers, Mr Obama's first chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs, his first White House press secretary. Hear it from Ms Obama though, and she "never had a cross word" with Mr Emanuel. As for Mr Gibbs, he was "a good friend, and remains so".

Yes, she cared deeply about her husband and his political fortunes, she told CBS. "I am one of his biggest allies. I am one of his biggest confidants."

But she denied she sat in meetings, a la Rosalynn Carter. Alas, "I guess it's just more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here ... that's been an image people have tried to paint of me since the day Barack announced, that I'm some kind of angry black woman."

Inevitably, "there will always be people who don't like me," the First Lady added, but she could live with that. "I'm just trying to be me, and I just hope that over time, people get to know me."

First Lady's foes? Strained relations

Robert Gibbs

The former White House spokesman said that President Obama reportedly "felt guilty about the sacrifices his wife was making [and] was unwilling to tell her what she could not do... so Gibbs took on the task," says the book.

Bill Daley

Ms Obama was said to be critical of the white-Irish families that hold political power in her home town of Chicago, a criticism which didn't go over well with Mr Daley, the recently departed White House chief of staff, whose father and brother were long-serving Chicago mayors.

Rahm Emanuel

On the current Chicago Mayor and former White House chief of staff: "Michelle and Rahm Emanuel had almost no bond; their relationship was distant and awkward from the beginning. She had been sceptical of him when he was selected, and now he returned the favour..."

Tim Hume

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

Sport
footballThe latest scores and Twitter updates from tonight’s games, featuring Bayern Munich vs Man City and Chelsea vs Schalke
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Extras
10 best table lamps
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

English Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...

Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...

SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's Stortford / Stansted

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week