First lady denies tension with former White House chief of staff

Jan. 2, 2012: President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama board Air Force One at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu.

Jan. 2, 2012: President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama board Air Force One at Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu.  (AP)

First lady Michelle Obama denied there was any tension between her and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, describing him as a "funny guy" and family friend despite a new book that portrays Obama's interaction with some of her husband's top advisers as frosty. 

In a TV interview Wednesday, Obama said she's "never had a cross word" with Emanuel, who is now Chicago's mayor. 

The first lady said she hasn't read the book in question, but dismissed its descriptions as off-base. She said people have tried to "paint" an image of her as "some angry black woman." 

Obama, while describing her personal role as that of "ally" and confidante to her husband, praised President Obama's staff and suggested she tries not to interfere. 

"I don't have conversations with my husband's staff. I don't go to the meetings," she told CBS News. "But, you know, I do care deeply about my husband. I am his biggest ally." 

She added: "I am one of his biggest confidants, but he has dozens of really smart people who surround him. That's not to say that we don't have discussions and conversations. That's not to say that my husband doesn't know how I feel. But, you know, this notion that I'm sitting in meetings and having, you know, conversations." 

The book, "The Obamas" by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, claimed Mrs. Obama did not trust Emanuel. 

"Michelle and Rahm Emanuel had almost no bond; their relationship was distant and awkward from the beginning," she wrote. The book described Obama as conflicted between wanting to play a bigger role in the inner circle and keeping her distance. 

It also described a spat in which former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs got angry with the first lady when adviser Valerie Jarrett relayed supposed concerns she had about the handling of remarks she allegedly made to French first lady Carla Bruni. A French book had claimed the first lady told Bruni life in the White House was "hell." Gibbs, after fighting the story, had a tense and expletive-laced confrontation with Jarrett about the first lady's supposed complaints, according to the book. Gibbs later blamed Jarrett for the incident and accused her of making up the complaint. 

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Gibbs said in a statement Monday that he regrets "speaking in anger," and stressed the "vital work" he conducted with Jarrett. 

The first lady said in the CBS interview she wasn't initially aware of the incident, but called Gibbs a "trusted adviser" and "good friend." 

"I'm sure that we could go day to day and find things people wish they didn't say to each other or said," she said. "People stumble. People make mistakes. ... They say things that they don't mean sometimes. That's why I don't read these books."