Sen. Barack Obama posed with interviewer Maria Menounos, second from right, after her July 4 interview with him, wife Michelle and daughters Malia, left, and Sasha.
Obama rues giving TV show ‘Access’ to Sasha and Malia
NEW YORK » It was the interview that quickly gave Sen. Barack Obama second thoughts, and not because it revealed he leaves his suitcase where his children can trip over it.
The "Access Hollywood" interview in which Obama and wife Michelle allowed daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, to participate opened a curtain on a potential president's family and raised questions about whether the girls should be "hands off" for the media.
Although their parents did most of the talking and the girls mostly looked like they'd rather be going out for ice cream, Obama later said he and his wife got carried away in agreeing to it.
"I don't think it's healthy, and it's something that we'll be avoiding in the future," Obama said Wednesday on "Good Morning America."
Rob Silverstein wishes Obama hadn't said that. The "Access Hollywood" executive producer believes Obama has nothing to regret.
The interview, spread over four parts on the show last week, was conducted by correspondent Maria Menounos when the Obamas were in Montana on July 4.
"Access Hollywood," which had been pursuing the Obamas for months, intended to simply interview Barack and Michelle Obama. But Menounos ingratiated herself with the kids - bonding over girlish enthusiasm for the Jonas Brothers - and they sat next to their parents for the interview. Producers quickly clipped microphones on their blouses.
"There was a very loose atmosphere," Silverstein said. "It was one of those things where it was like lightning in a bottle. We got lucky."
It wasn't until the third segment that Menounos even asked the children a question: "What have you guys thought about the possibility of living in the White House someday?"
"It'd be very cool," Sasha said. The older Malia said she was enthusiastic about the idea of redecorating a room.
Menounos also asked what they could do that would make their parents mad at them ("whining," Sasha replied) and whether they found it cool that magazines were looking toward their mother for fashion sense.
Presidents Bush and Clinton tried to shield their daughters when Dad moved into the White House. Some questioned whether that effort was too zealous when Chelsea Clinton, now a 28-year-old professional woman, refused media interviews while campaigning for her mother this year.
Charles Figley, chairman of the psychosocial stress research program at Tulane University, said high-profile parents should minimize the public exposure of children as young as the Obama girls, both to protect them from pressure and from potential abuse over the Internet.
That said, the "Access Hollywood" situation was the most ideal setting the Obamas could expect: It was an easygoing interview in a relaxed setting, with the children protected within the bonds of the family, Figley said.
Barack Obama's later regrets seemed to have less to with the interview itself than the way clips of it were played over and over on cable stations.
Silverstein suspects disdain for "Access Hollywood" in questions about whether it was a bad thing to put Malia and Sasha Obama on camera.
"The kids are well-adjusted, terrific kids with a well-adjusted family," he said. "I hardly think that a 25-minute interview with 'Access Hollywood' is going to affect them. Anyone who says that in the media, it's just sour grapes. They're just mad that they didn't get it."