BET Dismisses WaPo Journalist From Conference for Publishing Story on Michelle Obama Event

Andre Leon Talley (L) of Vogue Magazine and Robin Givhan / Getty Images
March 23, 2018

Robin Givhan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with the Washington Post, was kicked out of a conference hosted by the Black Entertainment Television Network earlier this week after she attended and published quotes from former First Lady Michelle Obama's question-and-answer session.

BET invited Givhan to attend the "Leading Women Defined" conference in Bal Harbour, Fla., to moderate one of the panels, but organizers soon demanded she leave and canceled her panel after they took issue with a story she published Wednesday following Obama's fireside chat-style event. They claimed the event took place in a "sacred space" and Obama's remarks should not have been published, Page Six reported.

Givhan, the Post's fashion critic, published the story after attending the, as she described it, "conversation between friends — between Michelle Obama and former presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett." The piece described Obama's remarks about her experience in 2008 before her husband, Barack Obama, was elected president.

"I couldn’t count on my husband’s campaign to protect me; I had to protect myself," she said. "They were using me like I was a candidate and supporting me like I was a spouse."

Obama went on to say that she was dismayed when asked if she could handle being the first lady. In response to the skepticism, she began by growing a garden at the White House in order to build trust with the American people.

Page Six reported that BET didn't play by its own rules when organizers claimed Obama's talk was private and that Givhan shouldn't have published the story. BET posted sections of Obama's interview on its website, prompting Jarrett, the event moderator, to tell her followers on social media to  "tune in to BET" to hear what Obama said during their conversation.

Givhan responded to several people, many of whom were women of color, on Twitter to defend her published piece from the onslaught of criticism, including one woman who accused her of violating "a sacred trust between women, black women."

"This is a complete violation of journalistic ethics and Black girl code, all at once," wrote Jamilah Lemieux, a black columnist.

"It was on-the-record. And no, I’m not one of you if that means refraining from doing my job," said Givhan, firing back at a critic.

Givhan was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for criticism.