Both PETA and Weatherproof recently erected ads that feature the First Lady and president, respectively. The White House approved neither image, but the companies haven't taken the ads down despite complaints from the president and First Lady's offices. PETA president Ingrid Newkirk told Robin Givhan of the Washington Post:
"We got a call from the White House counsel's office," Newkirk says. "We said to them, we're not selling a coat, only an idea that glamorous beautiful women who you look up to don't wear fur. . . . We're honoring her. Lawyers are lawyers, but PETA is honoring her fashion sense." So there.
"PETA is an advocacy organization and can claim to be making a political statement," [Georgetown law professor Rebecca] Tushnet says. "Political speech, even in the form of an ad, gets greater protection under the First Amendment than standard ads."
Not that we expected PETA, of all organizations, to back down on an issue and take Michelle out of the ad. Weatherproof president Freddie Stollmack has a convenient excuse for leaving his billboard up.
Stollmack says he hasn't yet spoken to anyone from the White House, although he has been contacted. Multiple times, he says. It's a phone tag situation. Honest. And, of course, there has been an endless string of media interviews. "It's turning into a dust storm. We never anticipated this kind of press coverage."
However, if and when they do connect, complaints from a White House aide aren't the same as threats from a lawyer. And as a lawyer told the Times yesterday, the White House is probably better off not dragging out litigation over something silly like this, which would only give Weatherproof more press. Some wonder if putting President Obama — a man known for his mom jeans — on a billboard is really a smart choice for an apparel company. Well, it is for Weatherproof; Obama's jacket is now the best seller in the collection. It is the mom jacket to his mom jeans after all.