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Saturday, 2 June, 2001, 03:30 GMT 04:30 UK
Appeal for First Family's privacy
Chuys Restaurant in Austin, Texas
Bush's daughters tried to buy alcohol at Chuys Restaurant in Austin, Texas
The White House is appealing to journalists to respect the privacy of the First Family in the wake of alcohol-related charges being brought against George W Bush's twin daughters.

"I would urge all of you to very carefully think through how much you want to pursue this," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

And the media is thinking about it and struggling with where to draw the line between the public and private lives of the president and his family.

Jenna and Barbara Bush
Jenna and Barbara are visiting their parents this weekend
Certainly, the American tabloids are having their fun with their story.

The New York Post ran the banner headline: "Jenna and tonic"

In typically colourful language, the Post wrote, ""Jenna and Barbara Bush got slapped with twin misdemeanour charges yesterday in their Margaritaville mess."

And the New York Daily News added, "As if they weren't in enough trouble, Jenna and Barbara Bush, both 19, also face their father's wrath this weekend when they travel to Camp David for a family reunion."

Jenna and Barbara will be visiting the First Mom and Dad this weekend, but White House aides say the plans were made before the incident this week.

Mainstream restraint

The rest of the press was much more circumspect. The story was covered, but it rarely had a prominent placement.

The Washington Post ran a story on the front page of its Style section, where the paper runs newsy features and entertainment stories.

US Today ran a picture of the twins on the front page, but the picture referred to the story which ran inside of the paper.

As for the New York Times, it printed 12 paragraphs deep within the A section.

Living in a fishbowl

As for the major television networks, NBC and ABC did report the incident. CBS did not, saying that the subject, at this point, was a family matter.

George W Bush
Bush had to admit to an alcohol related charge himself

And in some of the coverage, journalists admitted that they would have had a hard time living in the fishbowl of public life.

"Many of us would have provided lively tabloid fodder in college if we'd been subjected to the scrutiny Barbara and Jenna Bush must endure," wrote Joan Walsh of online magazine of Salon.

However, she added, "Still, their recklessness in the first months of their father's presidency suggests their parents screwed up by downplaying and even denying President Bush's own drinking problem."

And many media outlets justified coverage of the incident because it was Jenna Bush's second offence.

She pleaded no contest to a previous alcohol-related charge just two weeks ago.

Presumption of privacy

Certainly, the US became accustomed to a much more public airing of the president's private life after Bill Clinton's affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.

But the presidents' families, especially their children, still enjoy a presumption of privacy.

After early stories about Chelsea Clinton, she was largely left out of the limelight.

Jenna and Barbara Bush feared that they would lose their privacy when their father ran for president, and Mr Bush said that they asked him not to run for that reason.

And Mr Bush has tried to maintain privacy for not only his family but also for himself, but he discovered out how difficult that was when on the eve of the election he was forced to acknowledge a drunk driving arrest 30 years ago.

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See also:

01 Jun 01 | Americas
Bush daughters face drink charges
16 May 01 | Americas
Court punishes Bush daughter
28 Apr 01 | Americas
Beer bother for Bush daughter
06 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Bush satire is TV hit
14 Dec 00 | Profiles
George W Bush: Like father like son?
14 Dec 00 | Americas
Laura: 'A fabulous First Lady'
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