Taxpayers on Hook for Meryl Streep-Michelle Obama Africa Trip

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Actresses Meryl Streep and Frieda Pinto are set to join First Lady Michelle Obama and First Daughters Sasha and Malia Obama for a trip to Liberia and Morocco in late June to promote the White House’s “Let Girls Learn” female education initiative.

The First Family —  who will also be joined by Obama’s mother, Mrs. Marian Robinson — will visit Margibi County, Liberia, Marrakech, Morroco and Madrid, Spain from June 27—July 1, according to a White House press release.

Pinto, 31, perhaps best known for her role in the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, will join Michelle Obama at a school in Unification Town in Liberia on June 27 to meet with young girls to discuss the obstacles they face in attaining an education. Pinto will moderate the discussion, and the pair will be joined by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Obama is also scheduled to visit a Peace Corps training facility in Kakata while in Liberia.

The following day, Streep will join Obama and Pinto in Morocco for a discussion centered on girls’ education moderated by CNN’s Isha Sesay. On the final day of the trip, Obama will visit Madrid to deliver a speech highlighting the White House’s Let Girls Learn initiative. The First Lady will also meet Queen Letizia while in Spain.

According to a rough cost estimate of the trip conducted by the Daily Mail, the First Family’s overseas visit could cost as much as $300,000 in taxpayer funds for airfare alone. The outlet reports that the First Lady’s plane generally costs $11,684 per hour to operate; with roughly 25 hours of flight time scheduled, the airfare alone could come out to just under $300,000.

The Mail notes that the First Lady’s 2011 trip to Botswana and South Africa cost $424,142 in travel and plane crew fees.

The three-country trip in late June could be Michelle Obama’s final overseas trip as First Lady, as President Obama has just seven months left in office.

Streep and Michelle Obama have teamed up to discuss gender equality before; in 2015, the pair gave a joint interview to More magazine in which the Oscar-winning actress said that women in America have not yet reached full equality with men.

“We’re viewed as equals — but we’re still not there yet,” Streep told the magazine. “For the first time, we have the expectation that we can have a broad array of choices, that we could lead in almost any part of society. And yet we face resistance. We see that here at home in our government — in the House and the Senate. We see that in our boardrooms. We see that in Hollywood.”

President Obama awarded Streep the presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.

“I have said it publicly, I love Meryl Streep. I love her,” the president said during the ceremony. “Her husband knows I love her, Michelle knows I love her, and there is nothing either of them can do about it.”


Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum


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