Debate Over Coverage of Bush Daughters

ByABC News
May 31, 2001, 4:14 PM

May 31, 2001 — -- Amy Carter was criticized for poor manners when she read at the table during a state dinner. Theodore Roosevelt once told reporters he could run the country or control his daughter, not both. Bill and Hillary Clinton made it clear from the start that Chelsea was off limits to the press.

Now, President Bush's daughters are in the spotlight, again raising debate over where the media should draw the line when reporting on a first family's kids.

Coverage of 19-year-old Jenna Bush's no contest plea to an underage drinking charge and of an Austin, Texas police investigation into whether she and her twin sister, Barbara, attempted to buy a drink with another person's identification on Tuesday have officials in the Bush administration telling an eager press that the Bush family reaction to the matter is off limits.

"This is and shall remain a private family matter," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said today at a White House news briefing. "Do you want the American people to know that you're asking about private conversations that took place between the president of the United States and his child?"

Fleischer did not fault coverage of the incident so far, which has been based largely on police reports, but he cautioned the media of a potential backlash from pursuing it too aggressively.

Some already question the extent of the coverage, which has appeared on the major television networks and in major newspapers.

Lisa Caputo, press secretary for Hillary Clinton when she was first lady, says the media should wait until formal police charges are filed before reporting, and questioned the news value of the story at all.

"I don't see what the national interest here is," Caputo said today on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "Why does the American public have to know that Jenna and Barbara Bush attempted to buy beer or a margarita, because they are under age? What does that have to do with the way their father governs the country? What does it have to do with the direction [the country] is going in? Not much, if anything at all."