COTE DE TEXAS: Mea Culpa: A Public Apology to Michael Smith

Mea Culpa: A Public Apology to Michael Smith




A few months ago, I was told by someone – a “reliable” source – that Michael Smith was no longer the Obama’s interior designer.  The source was a tradesman, head of a specialty finish job being done in the President’s private quarters.  When I wrote about the rumor, I specifically asked - “Is this true?” - rather than state that it was.   At the time my source, and I, truly believed that the world would know in 24 hours what this tradesman claimed to know.   As time went on, even with a reconfirmation of the rumor, I felt more and more uneasy and pulled the article from my blog.  




 Michael Smith

Today, a reader sent me a link to a story about Michael Smith that seems to confirm he is still firmly on the job, which I think is fabulous news.  As everyone knows, I named Smith to the Cote de Texas Top Ten Designers list – so obviously I have great respect for him and his work.   Today I publically apologize to Michael Smith for questioning his standing on the job.   And I apologize to my readers.  I truly wish I had exercised more control.    I am not a reporter, but in hindsight, I wish I had gotten the report from two sources, as any reputable journalist would do.   My only saving grave is that I posed the question, rather than state it as fact.  It is very easy to say you are wrong when you are truly very wrong and it’s even easier to apologize under that circumstance.   I learned an important lesson which is -  from here on out, I will only report something that I can confirm myself from two independent sources – though I don’t expect to be given any more “scoops” of this magnitude!   So, onto the good news concerning the White House and Michael Smith:




On Wednesday, October 28 at 6:30, Mr. Michael Smith will present the authors Ulysses Grant Dietz and Sam Watters who recently wrote the book “Dream  House:  The White House as an American Dream.”   The event takes place at the Library at the General Society, 20 West 44th Street, New York,  and is a benefit hosted by and for the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical American.  Peter Pennoyer Architects are sponsoring the event.   

According to the press release:    The authors “begin with George Washington’s vision of a country estate and how it evolved and changed through decades of interior renovation, rebuilding, and landscaping. Ulysses Grant Dietz, a direct descendent of President Ulysses S. Grant, is a leading authority on American decorative arts and Sam Watters is a scholar of American Buildings and landscape before 1930. Their recent book on the subject of the White House is published by Acanthus Press and will be available at the lecture.”

RSVP is required (212) 730-9646, 109 or register online at




The book, Dream House:   The White House as an American Home is available for preorder here.


As is obvious, it seems highly unlikely the rumor is true, judging solely from this forthcoming event.  Design blogging is a relatively new medium, slightly over five years old – but exploding in numbers these past two.   I still have a lot to learn and am not ashamed to admit that.  Hopefully, others will also learn from  my mistakes.   I sincerely hope my apology to Michael Smith and the readers will be accepted.   As we say in Austin – onward through the fog!


  1. "Onward through the fog!" I think that's my new motto.

    Nothing reveals integrity better than how someone handles a mistake. Well done.

  2. Hey Miss Joni,

    Anyone that "knows" you certainly knows you would not do anything maliciously. You have a good heart!


  3. Oh pish posh I am sure Michael Smith and his reputation will be fine no matter what is every said on a blog, even when the blog is read by so many.

    Dietz diet.

  4. Nicely done Joni. It can be difficult to admit a mistake and offer an apology and you did it with grace.

  5. Nicely done Joni. It can be difficult to admit a mistake and offer an apology and you did it with grace.

  6. I think when people are talking about you, it means you are worth talking about. I agree with MaryBeth,!

    Secretly I think you are so brave to put yourself out there with those kinds of posts, you are an example for all of us to follow (which is clearly obvious with your readers and blog ranks!)

    After I commented on your last post, I couldn't resist writing a post about it;

    Thanks for the ongoing inspiration!!

  7. If you were a hothead just throwing stuff out there, perhaps one could question motive. However, given the time and care you take with blogging- all the time- eh- no apology needed to me as a reader.

    I found the first post interesting and thought provoking- who knew if it was true? But, as others have commented, your measure of character was truly demonstrated today.

  8. Very well done, Joni!
    And hooray that Mr Smith appears to be in Washington still!

  9. When I was in J-school at the University of Oklahoma during the summer of love, Woodstock, and the draft lottery, it was three (3) reliable sources before going to press. Forty years does a world make! Grace never changes.

  10. good job joni... pure grace !!

  11. You truly are "Miss Gracious Living".

  12. And I can't wait to see what he creates!!

  13. Good evening, Joni--

    Well done. Very well done.
    I understand that you wanted to be the blogger who broke this rumor. You are forgiven. Totally.
    Your noting a rumor is merely one issue;
    Perhaps more interesting in this exercise: you will recall that I commented at the time on the derision poured on Michael Smith, 'the expensive decorator', and the feeding frenzy of many readers who whooped and hollered and danced at this possible rumor. Their comments are still there, on the record. It would be gracious if many of them now came forward and also offered a mea culpa. Dozens of readers were laughing at Michael's purported 'fall from grace'--even while he was in Washington DC working at the White House. That was more disappointing to see such ungracious and poor behavior in blogland than your initial 'report'. Your 'rumor' was mild in comparison to the unseemly jubilation in reaction. Michael is a friend, a very talented designer, and I was shocked at the vociferous and unrelenting taunting.
    Joni: I like you even more for your Freudian slip...did you notice you wrote 'grave' ...
    Onward and upward,

  14. Joni, you are so's a learning experience for all of us, and it's up to all of us to make up our own minds with what we are given.

    Can't wait to see what Mr. Smith comes up with! I'm sure he appreciates his blogger fan club.


  15. I still have a lot to learn and am not ashamed to admit that. You should be proud that you are so real. It's one of the things I admire most about you.

    Joni, nobody that knows you at all would ever question your intentions nor your integrity -- they are beyond reproach. While it's very honorable for you to issue a public apology - for those that know and love you never need that.
    Carry on!
    xo Isa

  16. Classy and well done! I hate that sinking feeling in my stomach when you've done something that goes against the grain of your character. It's almost worse than "country" kitchen decor.

  17. Joni, if that's the worst thing that's happened've had a good day! :) You're the best and your gracious retraction today proves it.

  18. You are so gracious. I love, love "onward through the fog" - I'm going to write it on a post-it and leave it on my desk.

  19. Joni- when you have info like that, we WANT to hear it!!! :) You didn't say it was fact and we all knew it may or may not have been true as we read it so I don't think there was anything wrong with writing about it when you didn't state it as fact.

    you put yourself out there & that's why we love you!!!


  20. Joni, you are a great woman to post your apology.(one not necessarily needed) Now we will look forward to seeing the results of Michael's work.

  21. You are simply the best, Joni! Well done!!

  22. Merci, Joni. You are truly a Texan Class Act.

  23. Bravo, Joni. The more bloggers own up to mistakes, however minor, the more likely we are to be taken seriously. Bravo, again.

  24. * As SMALL (physically) as you are, "it takes a BIG PERSON..."~~~

    I admire you Joni~~~ then again, I would expect no less from someone of your calibur~~~

    Respectfully and in supportive friendship,
    Linda in AZ *

  25. It is a strong and brave person who can admit their mistake publicly. Good on you for doing this. It elevates you above the rest of the blogging masses.

  26. Very courageous of you! You handled the situation very well!

  27. Joni,

    nicely done!!

    maybe this will be your red chair, and Michael will come on the SRT!!

    welcome back from the beach...all decks cleared..onward!!

  28. Hi Joni -

    Thank goodness you are human! Beautifully done!

    And by the way, if you would not have shared the Michael Smith 'rumor', we would have read it elsewhere. Those sources - as Diane Saeks noted earlier - have not yet issued apologies or corrections.

    Best to get 'conditional' scoops from Cote de Texas knowing you will update us with new information when available.



  29. Joni:

    Your are sure a CLASSY LADY!!!!

  30. A classic lady knows when and how to apologize. You are indeed a Gracious living classic lady.

    P.S. I would love for you and participate in my giveaway. Come and check it out.

  31. Thanks for showing all of us that "to err(sp?) is human"--and that the appropriate response is to accept responsibility and move on. (Personally, I'm not a fan of Michael Smith, but as a (huge) poodle owner, I like his choice of dog.)

  32. Joni- You're so sweet for doing this, and will be respected for it.

  33. Joni....this is how all bloggers should behave. Thanks for setting the bar!

  34. Joni,

    Good on you for writing this post.
    I'm hoping that some of the comments that were posted at the time attacking Mrs. Obama for being difficult and Mr. Smith as a diva will be taken back as well. I was new to your wonderful blog when you posted the Smith tip and was so taken aback by some of the comments that it really gave me pause.
    Thank you for taking the high road.

  35. Why didn't you call or email his office for a comment on the rumor, before you printed it?

    And why didn't you call or email his office for this post either?

    Forget two sources versus three: The Number 1 rule of ethical reporting is:

    If you're writing about someone, you have got to get a comment from him on whatever it is you're reporting. Not only is this ethical reporting, it's basic manners.

    As for Miss Saeks: First, the original post is down, so the comments are down too. Joni wrote that clearly.

    Second: No one needs to apologize or withdraw an opinion. What Joni printed was an error of fact. What the commenters wrote, from your description, were opinions. Your logic seems to be: "Michael Smith is a friend of mine, so therefore you must apologize for saying you don't like him." Sorry; no.

  36. There was something irritatingly patronizing about all these comments commending Joni on her "brave decision" to admit an error, in particular those from Diane Dorrans Saeks and Aesthete's Lament. These are people who are presumably well informed, yet neither of them chose to clarify or state flatly that the rumor had no basis in fact, at the time of the original post.
    It would have been removed instantly, had anyone
    come long with strong convictions. It proves one thing: that there were elements of truth in her original post, and the cognoscenti was keeping it under wraps.

  37. we live and learn. i am always sticking my foot in my mouth, so i would not beat myself up too much - you thought it was a reliable source and wanted to break the news - any of us would be the same. very kind to apologize!!

    xo terri

  38. Joni,

    I applaud you for your action.

    You show class, grace and humility
    with your public apology.

    We all know that you are not discourtesies. You would never
    intentionally hurt another.

    Kind regards,

  39. Peter Pennoyer ( always supports great events, this should be a fun evening!

  40. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  41. there is only one reason why I opened the comments - I seriously wanted to close them because I didn't want a lot of "oh you are good to apologize - I SHOULD apologize - but I felt that someone who wanted to write something negative about the occurence should have a forum. that said, I don't care to have commentors skewered which why I just erased the last one. it wasn't about me, but about an innocent person who just happens to leave comments here. As for what the last anon said - yes, if someone, anyone would have told me they knew MS was on the job, I would have erased it sooner, asap, immediately. no one said that to me. Lesson learned, moving on to decorating.

  42. Look what just came up on another blog today...word that another decorator was seen at The White House. It was Simon Doonan, of all people. The guy is a hoot and a fascinating character, but I can't imagine him decorating The White House!

  43. Joni, I think you are being a little hard on yourself. You had a pretty impeccable source, and Smith surely wouldn't put out a press release saying "I was just fired."

    So short of calling Smith's office to confirm (would his flacks have told you anything but "Everything is FAB!"), how were you to know? And why would you call - you are a designer not a journalist.

    As for my post, I simply let my readers know about an interesting piece of information I read and gave my thoughts. I don't think I need to apologize for anything I wrote, even if Smith still is the Decorator in Chief.

    We're bloggers, not Woodward and Bernstein.