UNDIE-GATE: At a time of budget cutting and belt-tightening in the U.S., the White House found itself in the awkward position of having to deny several stories that ran in British newspapers on Monday that claimed First Lady Michelle Obama loosened her purse strings last year to go on a $50,000 lingerie shopping spree at Agent Provocateur on Madison Avenue in New York. The Telegraph, one of several British publications that ran the story, claimed the high-end lingerie shop had to close temporarily last year so the First Lady could shop with the Queen of Qatar, Sheikha Mozah.

“At least when I was a reporter, usually the standard for British tabloid reporting was the assumption that it was false,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, responding to a question at the daily White House briefing — and perhaps forgetting that the Telegraph actually isn’t a tabloid. “In this case, it’s utterly false, and it’s irresponsible of an American news organization to repeat the story, even allowing that it could be true. So it’s wrong.”

This story first appeared in the January 31, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

But the press pack wasn’t going to give up that easily on such a titillating tale. Pressed on whether he could provide evidence that the stories were wrong, Carney said: “I’m not going to go there….It’s false.”

According to The Telegraph, Gary Hogarth, Agent Provocateur’s chief executive officer, refused to be drawn on the store’s closely kept “secret client list.” But he admitted the brand had attracted a high number of “unexpected famous names” — especially in the U.S., where sales have overtaken the U.K.

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