PETA, the animal rights group, is featuring Michelle Obama in an ad with Oprah Winfrey, Carrie Underwood and Tyra Banks without the first lady's permission. PETA's position is that it is honoring her -- and the other stars -- for not wearing fur.
"We did not consent to it," Semonti M. Stephens, a spokesman for Mrs. Obama, told Politics Daily on Wednesday.
The banners, posted at the Dupont Circle and Friendship Heights subway stations in Washington, are headlined "Fur-Free and Fabulous!" There are also two vans driving around Washington with a similar message, and serving hot soy cocoa.
Stephens has said Mrs. Obama does not wear fur.
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk told Politics Daily on Wednesday that using Mrs. Obama's image is "fair game" because the organization is "reporting a fact . . . that she is fur-free" -- as any news organization would.
"So we are reporting that she is fur-free, which is a fact and our opinion is that makes her pretty fabulous."
The East Wing, she said, "could never give their permission for something like that. It is a compliment to her. We are honoring her, by making her a prime figure with women who have sworn off fur."
The ad campaign will remain up as long as it is cold; that should be awhile.
I asked Newkirk if this wasn't just a publicity stunt. She replied, "That's our job, to put out the message of how animals suffer far and wide."
Groups with shoe-string ad budgets have learned how to leverage a few relatively cheap ads to get national attention. PETA's poster ad buy in Washington, a media center, translated into stories (yes, including this one) in national broadcast, print and Web outlets. The East Wing is not pleased, but if officials complained, it would only generate more publicity.
The exception is when the privacy of the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, is at issue. Last August, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine posted advertising posters at Washington's Union Station. The campaign promoting healthy school lunches referred to the Obama girls. The posters stayed up despite calls from White House lawyers to take them down and spokesman Robert Gibbs calling them a "publicity stunt."