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The Hypocrisy Over Presidential Kids

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
It's an obvious rule: Never pick on a president's family.

Elizabeth Lauten, the formerly unknown "communications director" for two-term GOP congressman Stephen Fincher resigned after a national-media feeding frenzy over some stupid words about the president's daughters on her personal Facebook page.


No one came to her defense for this idiocy, and correctly so. Republican Party spokesman Sean Spicer decried her remarks, and then attacked the media for its hypocrisy, for launching into an obscure Republican staffer's social-media statements, something it has never done for Democrats. Again, he was absolutely correct.

Political decorum demands that presidential children should be left out of political commentary. The same courtesy should be shown toward presidential spouses -- unless the subject is their policy initiatives. You can evaluate or criticize Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign or Michelle Obama's school-lunch program. It is never, ever fair to attack their children, and anyone doing so deserves the Lauten treatment and fate.

Liberals would agree -- making them hypocrites. Wouldn't it be nice if the liberal media observed this notion for all presidents and presidential contenders and their families? But they have failed repeatedly to be consistent on this principle. They have refused, time and again, to denounce liberal partisans who have verbally assaulted children of Republicans. Usually they don't even cover it!

Take, for example, the radioactive crud that "comedians" have dropped on Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol. This is what Bill Maher had to say in 2011:

"In Bristol's new memoir 'Not Afraid of Life' -- working title, 'Whoops, There's a Dick in Me' -- Bristol claims that the night she lost her virginity she had accidentally gotten drunk on wine coolers that she didn't know contained alcohol and then blacked out and didn't remember a thing," Maher declared. "Oh, the Palins. I tell you, the s--t doesn't fall far from the bat."


Or consider the Washington Post-owned website Slate in 2012 holding a caption contest for a picture of presidential candidate Rick Santorum's daughters Elizabeth (age 21) and Sarah (age 14). Sadly, liberal commenters predictably started mocking how these conservative Catholic daughters -- yes, including the middle schooler -- were on contraceptives, or wearing chastity belts or touching themselves sexually.

Denouncement? Coverage? Please find them for us.

The media mocked the Bush twins in the middle of 2001 when they were cited for underage drinking in Austin at age 19. The New York tabloids loved it. It was headlined ''Double Trouble'' by the New York Daily News and ''Jenna and Tonic'' by the New York Post. The networks jumped all over it, insisting all along that this was the public's business because the twins had entered the police blotter, and because their father was a recovered alcoholic.

That might be defended as newsworthy (while the tone can be denounced as offensive) because they were young adults in public breaking the law.

But after the 2000 Democratic convention, 17-year-old Al Gore III was cited for driving 97 mph in a 55 mph zone and reckless driving. Network coverage? Zero.

What's the difference?

The national media love to argue that politics in Washington is "broken," that politicians don't cross the aisle to socialize and recognize each other's humanity and good intentions. But their willingness to stay silent when the children of Republicans are verbally eviscerated demonstrates they are every bit a part of the problem they describe.


L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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