Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)

Obama In U-Turn On Daughters' TV Appearance

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Barack Obama says he was "carried away in the moment" when he let his daughters be interviewed on television. Richard Wolffe, senior White House Correspondent for Newsweek, says the Obamas may have crossed their own line by allowing the interview.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Forget Iran or Iraq. Set aside gas prices, or the competition to win Hispanic voters. The other big story from the campaign trail this week is a rare interview with the two Obama girls. Ten-year-old Malia and seven-year-old Sasha occasionally accompany their parents on the campaign trail, but they're almost always off limits to reporters. Well, not this weekend. The entire family sat down for an interview in Montana with a reporter from the entertainment show "Access Hollywood." Malia, in particular, had a lot to say about her famous dad.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD")

MALIA OBAMA: This is what you do, daddy. You...

BARACK OBAMA: Uh-oh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: ...when you - it's not that bad.

OBAMA: Okay. Good.

OBAMA: But when you come home, you know, you have your big, gigantic bag and you leave it in the bedroom. Sometimes I trip over it.

MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah, and you leave your bag...

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

OBAMA: ...everything. And it's heavy.

NORRIS: That was yesterday. Clips from the "Access Hollywood" interview have been splashed all over cable and the Web. Richard Wolffe is the senior White House correspondent for Newsweek. He's been covering the Obama campaign for months. Now he joins me here in the studio.

Richard, how did this happen?

RICHARD WOLFFE: Well, it was Malia's birthday, July 4th, and they were doing a whole bunch of sort of softer interviews. And according the candidate, they all sat down for this interview. It wasn't supposed to be with the girls talking, but they miked them up. One thing led to another, and before they knew it, it was a family interview.

NORRIS: This morning, Barack Obama appeared on some of the morning television shows. He was speaking with Matt Lauer on "The Today Show," and he said he now regrets that decision. Let's take a quick listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TODAY SHOW")

OBAMA: I think that we got carried away in the moment. We were having a birthday party and everybody was laughing, and suddenly, this thing cropped up and I didn't catch it quickly enough. And I was surprised by the attention it received, as well.

MATT LAUER: So if you had to do it over again?

OBAMA: We wouldn't do it again, and we won't be doing it again.

NORRIS: Won't be doing it again. But as the campaign opened a Pandora's Box, will it be harder say the girls are off limits after this?

WOLFFE: Well, I don't think it's going to harder for reporters, journalists who actually write things, because the girls are easy to sort of hold away from the press. But actually what - the line they've crossed here is with photographers and cameramen, the people like the paparazzi who will stock them and chase them. And the family's already in a strange transition moment where the pool, the small group of reporters that follow him are going to every event that the family does. So the family's trying to cope with all these intrusions to their privacy that weren't there before. And on top of this, they've now crossed their own line with this TV show. So it makes it hard, 'cause you can't, of course, police cameramen quite so easily. They can be at a long distance and still intrude on your privacy.

NORRIS: Now there's an interesting contrast, here, because in the McCain campaign, his 23-year-old daughter Megan McCain has been blogging here way through the primaries. Is there a concern that that's opened the door a bit too wide in terms of her privacy and what that might mean not just for her, but for her six other siblings?

WOLFFE: Well, full disclosure, she was actually also an intern at Newsweek. So she's already sort of encountered the media in a sort of semi-professional way. But I think there is a distinction here between adult children and people who are still in school. And that's really the difficult thing for the Obamas right now. It is very unusual to have someone who is in school and may be entering the White House at such a young age. And that's why they have had these firewalls and why it was, frankly, naive for the Obamas to let their daughters get miked up in the way that they did.

NORRIS: Richard, thanks so much.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Michele.

NORRIS: Richard Wolffe is a senior White House correspondent for Newsweek. He's been covering the Barack Obama campaign, and he was speaking to us about a rare interview this week with the Obama girls.

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