A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Michelle’s European Vacation


Q: Did Michelle Obama and her daughters use taxpayer money to take a European vacation?

A: The first lady, her mother and her children did stay in Europe for a private vacation after the president completed an overseas trip on official business. However, no taxpayer money was used for the first family’s personal expenses.

FULL QUESTION

Is this true?

Michelle Obama Takes Her Girls to London for Fish and Chips !!!

[EET ]On Sunday, President Obama flew back to the United States on Air Force One. His wife, two daughters and her mother did a bit of shopping in Paris before taking their own Boeing 757 (C-32) over TO London to do some sight-seeing.

NOTE: We all remember Obama’s admonishment to corporate CEO’s in February:

“You can’t get corporate jets, you can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers dime.”

Apparently that doesn’t apply to his wife.

The London Times opened its description of Michelle’s visit this way:

Motorcycle outriders, armoured Chevrolets and bullet-headed men in raincoats criss-crossed London yesterday as Michelle Obama and her daughters spent a second day on an unofficial visit to the capital.

The Times went on to describe that when Michelle and the girls arrived at Westminster Abbey, the building was closed to tourists with people already in told to “wait against the wall.” An American visiting the Abbey said “Right then I knew it was probably someone from our ‘royal family’.”

Michelle’s motorcade shut down the London street above as the First Lady of the World and her children go for Fish and Chips at a pub in Mayfair . The entourage inside the restaurant was 15 people while dozens more wait outside. Include the dozens of Air Force personnel to fly and service the plane, embassy personnel and other staff and we are talking about a serious expenditure of tax payer dollars.

MEANWHILE, millions of Americans have lost their jobs and won’t be able to take their family on a summer vacation.

BUT – Despite their circumstances they’ll still be expected to fork over the tax dollars to pay for Michelle’s trip.

Tell your friends about this — it’s their TAX money, too![/EET]

FULL ANSWER

On June 7, President Barack Obama wrapped up an overseas trip that included a major speech at Cairo University in Egypt, a visit to Saudi Arabia and Germany, and a 65th anniversary commemoration of D-Day in France. The president flew back to Washington, D.C., but his wife, Michelle, her mother and daughters went to London for two days of vacation. The chain e-mail above alleges that this vacation time was financed by taxpayer money, saying that while "millions of Americans … won’t be able to take their family on a summer vacation … they’ll still be expected to fork over the tax dollars to pay for Michelle’s trip."

No Taxpayer Money for Personal Expenses

It is true that the Obamas visited Westminster Abbey, as well as a well-known local pub in Mayfair, as the e-mail says. The Obamas also visited Big Ben and Parliament. As an added treat for Sasha Obama’s 8th birthday, the Obama girls met the actors from the "Harry Potter" movies. But the Obamas paid for their own personal expenses – not U.S. taxpayers. Katie McCormick Lelyveld, Michelle Obama’s press secretary, told FactCheck.org in an e-mail: "All personal travel and expenses incurred were paid for personally."

Cost of Security

The e-mail also questions the expenses for security for the family, saying that Michelle Obama’s motorcade "shut down [a] London street." President Obama has himself been criticized for similar reasons – in one instance, for flying with his wife to New York City for a date to dinner and a Broadway show. As was the case with Michelle Obama’s vacation, the Obamas personally paidfor dinner and the tickets to the show. While policy dictates that tax money does not cover any personal expenses, the cost of security has historically been placed on the taxpayer.

During any given trip, local law enforcement plays a big role in protecting presidents and their families. However, the United States Secret Service is the primary agency used to protect presidents, their families and some other members of an administration. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Secret Service is charged with protecting not only current presidents, vice presidents and their families, but also former presidents, children of former presidents under the age of 16, visiting heads of foreign states and other distinguished foreign visitors, and major presidential and vice presidential candidates. The same even goes for former vice presidents: Former Vice President Dick Cheney recently requested an additional six months of secret service protection – a request which was granted by President Obama.

– Andrew Karter

Sources

"GOP takes aim at Barack and Michelle Obama’s NYC Trip." Politico.com. 31 May 2009, accessed 25 Jul 2009.

"United States Service." SecretService.gov. Accesssed 25 Jul 2009.

Reese, Shawn. "The U.S. Secret Service: An Examination and Analysis of Its Evolving Missions." Congressional Research Service. 24 Mar 2009, accessed 27 Jul 2009.