Voter's Words That Sparked A Debate Are Clarified

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Morning Edition follows up on a story that prompted some debate among our listeners when it first aired a month ago. It was a quote from a voter in Indianapolis about the President and Mrs. Obama. On Thursday, NPR's Ari Shapiro ran into the same voter halfway across the country and followed up with her.


Let's follow up now on a story that prompted some debate among our listeners when it first aired. Here's NPR's Ari Shapiro, who stumbled upon this postscript.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: When Mitt Romney spoke to the American Legion Conference in Indianapolis last month, thousands of people from across the country were in the audience. I happened to speak with Bobbie Lussier of Virginia, who said this about President Obama...

BOBBIE LUSSIER: I just - I don't like him, can't stand to look at him. I don't like his wife. She's far from the first lady. It's about time we get a first lady in there that acts like a first lady and looks like a first lady.

SHAPIRO: After that story aired, listeners asked what she meant, whether her quote was racist, and whether I should have aired her comments at all. NPR's ombudsman wrote a column about it and people discussed it on Twitter and Facebook. Yesterday, Romney held a much smaller event at an American Legion post outside of Washington, D.C. As I was packing up to leave, a man tapped me on the shoulder. You were in Indianapolis, he said. It was Mr. Lussier. His wife agreed to talk with me again. She was unaware that her quote had spurred so much conversation, and she explained what she meant when she said Michelle Obama doesn't look like a first lady.

LUSSIER: Can you imagine, you know, Kennedys or the Bushes or anybody doing pushups on the floor? I mean, you know, that's just not a first lady.

SHAPIRO: A lot of people wondered if there was a racial undertone to your comments.

LUSSIER: No, it's not. I don't care what color she is. It's just she doesn't act and look like a first lady. I mean, she's more about looking - showing her arms off and, you know, I think that's very inappropriate for a lot of functions that she goes to.

SHAPIRO: So do you mean it's an issue of modesty?

LUSSIER: Well, yeah. I mean, you see her walking around in shorts and, you know, just real casual wear. And, to me, that's - I mean, when I go to functions, I kind of dress up other than, you know, today. But you just got to look the part.

SHAPIRO: I've interviewed hundreds of voters this election season, and I never imagined that the person who prompted the most conversation would be the only voter I would cross paths with twice. Ari Shapiro, NPR News.



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