Almost every professional American journalist accepts the convention that the private lives of the president’s pre-adult children — their participation in school and extracurricular events; their private trips; their personal lives — shall not be covered except, as was the case with the Bush twins, when they’re charged with breaking the law.
The cone of silence that usually shields the president’s children temporarily lifted early this week as a variety of outlets, including Huffington Post and Yahoo News, and the websites of the London Telegraph and the Australian, ran stories about Malia Obama’s vacation in school trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, with classmates and 25 Secret Service agents. The White House contacted the outlets and asked that the Web pages be tossed into the memory hole. Most complied, but not before the Blaze captured screenshots of them. The administration even persuaded Politico to redact its original report about the excised pages because it contained information that raised “security” concerns at the White House.
The acceptance of the White House kids’ convention is so universal that even the supermarket tabloids tend to drop their snooping cameras and gossip-pouring pens when it comes to presidential offspring, although Weekly World News columnist Ed Anger played the dissident when he asked: “Why Are Democrats’ Daughters So Ugly?” in the paper’s Aug. 25, 1992, issue, just before Bill Clinton won the presidential election. Anger concluded that if Clinton reached the White House, Chelsea would be the “prettiest” daughter of a Democratic president in 40 years, “but she’s no Tricia Nixon,” he added.
Only a press absolutist would insist that reporters should track the daily comings and goings of White House kids. As George W. Bush’s wife, Laura Bush, said when she and her family moved into the White House: “Our girls are not public figures. They’re the children of a president.” But it doesn’t take a press radical to squirm at the relative ease with which the White House “persuades” publications around the world to delete Web pages already viewed by thousands and perhaps millions of people. (As I write, Black Celebrity Kids still hosts its Malia-in-Mexico story, complete with location photos from Oaxaca.)
Here’s the justification for the White House redaction campaign, as expressed in an email from Kristina Schake, Michelle Obama’s communications director, to Politico’s Dylan Byers: