Sarah Palin's Children and Life in the Public Eye

Photo: Palin Girls in the Media SpotlightPlayTLC
WATCH Bristol Palin Apologizes for Her Sister

It's never been easy to be the child of a famous politician, but this week has served as a reminder for Sarah Palin's children that the spotlight on her can shine harshly on them.

That spotlight has shown brightly this week: "Sarah Palin's Alaska" debuted on TLC to record-breaking ratings on Sunday, and Bristol Palin advanced to the semi-finals of the popular ABC show "Dancing with the Stars." Bristol, a teen mom, also debuted a new PSA to promote safe sex.

VIDEO: Sarah Palin appears on Dancing With the Stars to cheer on daughter Bristol.Play
Sarah Palin Appears on 'Dancing With the Stars'

But Bristol's run on DWTS has been dogged by rumors that her mother's political machine is behind her popularity, that voters said they liked her dancing because they really liked her mother. There has been a between the judges' scores and the viewers'. The 20-year-old daughter of the former Alaska governor was booed Tuesday night when it was announced that she had made it to the semi-finals of the competition.

The Palins are a special case. No other political family has welcomed television cameras into their house for an all-access reality TV show, and Bristol chose to be in the spotlight on "Dancing with the Stars."

On Tuesday night, the audience was audibly shocked when it was announced that Bristol and her partner Mark Ballas had beaten pop singer Brandy and her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who received a perfect score for one of their dances the night before.

VIDEO: The former Alaska governor cheers on Bristol Palin from the dancing sidelines.Play
Sarah Palin Visits 'Dancing With the Stars'

In addition to the audience members, other competitors found it hard to believe – cameras caught professional dancer Derek Hough with his mouth agape.

Bristol has adamantly defended herself against the ballot stuffing rumors. "There's no politics involved in this," she told Access Hollywood. "I know this -- people always focus on how far we've gotten in this competition and 'it's because my mom' -- all this B.S. and stuff when really it can work the opposite way. I've got so many people out there attacking me every day because of who my mom is."

Palin Talks With Barbara Walters

In an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters over the weekend, Sarah Palin said she had braced her daughter for the criticisms.

"When 'Dancing With the Stars' called her and wanted her to be on the show, I said, 'Bristol, you know you're going to open yourself up to criticism just because of your last name. And Bristol said, 'Mom, you know it doesn't matter what I do. They're going to criticize me, so I might as well dance.'"

Last night the 2008 vice presidential nominee tweeted that she was "proud of all the competitors & pros in DWTS. Nice journeys & beautiful, inspiring stories shining through each individual!"

While Bristol's dancing controversy rages on, her younger sister Willow, 16, has also set off an explosion by posting homophobic remarks on her Facebook page, a reminder that everything the Palin children do is under the public microscope.

In New Book, Sarah Palin Wonders About Putting Her Children In The Public Eye

"Make no mistake; this is all about destroying Sarah Palin by any means necessary," Tammy Bruce, chair of the GOProud Advisory Council, said in Willow's defense. "The angry misogynistic left and their accomplices in the mainstream media have been unable to take down Gov. Palin – no matter how hard they have tried. Unable to take her down directly, they now have decided to try to hurt her by attacking the most important thing in her life – her family."

In leaked excerpts of her new book, "American By Heart," Sarah Palin asks whether being in the public eye is worth the risk to her family.

"There were times when I wasn't sure; when it was everything Todd and I could do not to lash out at the forces threatening our family. More than once, I thought, How could this be worth it? Let's just go back to Wasilla and stop feeding the media beast. Let's give ourselves and our family a break," Palin writes.

Palins Join Long List of Political Children Who Were Media Fodder

ABC News' Cokie Roberts -- herself the daughter of politicians -- said, "It has always been true that any political child has to know that anything that he or she is doing could show up on page one of the newspaper the next day and you have to live your life in the way that you could stand to have that happen. For some kids that's not a big deal, and for others that's horrible."

The Palins are certainly not the first political children to find themselves the center of attention; Chelsea Clinton, the Bush twins and Meghan McCain were all fodder for the media at one point or another.

"Kids used to be able to have a private life," Roberts said, adding that the media's treatment of politicians' children has changed dramatically over the years.

"Both the Clintons and the Bushes established a whole new territory about political children. Starting with the Clinton and continued by the Bushes, they said very strongly 'hands off,' and they said it so firmly and kept to it, in that they didn't use their kids, that it really did establish a much bigger zone of privacy around those political kids than you would normally see," Roberts said. "Before that I think political kids were always fair game."