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In the Crossfire

Are Bush twins fair game for media?

(CNN) -- Jenna and Barbara Bush, the president's 20-year-old twin daughters, recently found themselves the subject of The Washington Post's gossip column, "The Reliable Source," after being spotted in a Washington bar. The incident wasn't the first time the underage girls have been the subject of embarrassing press coverage.

Should the children of elected officials be off-limits to the media? Post columnist Lloyd Grove bellies up to the bar -- er, steps into the "Crossfire" -- with hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

CARLSON: [Writing gossip items about the Bush daughters is] a couple of steps in respectability below, we thought, The Washington Post. [People magazine has] a policy that they're not going to write about the Bush twins. So you're putting yourself as a journalist below People magazine?

GROVE: Well, I wasn't aware of this policy. And I think I've read stuff about the Bush twins in People magazine. But I'm interested to see how they act on this policy. I think that, yes, we should be as judicious as possible. But when there are things that are newsworthy, in the gossip sense, that occur, I think it's legitimate for me to write about it.

BEGALA: Great! Let's continue that standard though. It's not my standard. It's yours. Let's be consistent. Do you follow around the children -- aside from the president of the United States -- probably the most powerful guy in Washington is a man named Len Downey.

They've never heard of Len Downey, but he runs The Washington Post, one of the most powerful newspapers in the whole world. I don't even know if he has kids, and I don't care.

If he does, and they're around the age of the Bush girls, are you going to follow them around into bars? Should CNN follow them around? Shouldn't it be newsworthy if the children of media executives are behaving like children and we can -- we can ...

GROVE: Paul, you see no distinction between the president of the United States and Len Downey? No, of course, you don't because given your ...

BEGALA: It's a ...

GROVE: ... professional history and working for the president [former President Clinton] you did work for, of course, you would have the position. If I were you, I'd have the same position.

BEGALA: But you didn't answer my question. Is it fair game to cover the children of media -- powerful media officials? The president's powerful. His children are not. You say that makes them fair game.

Len Downey -- I don't mean to single him out or any other media executive -- the head of CNN -- these are powerful men and women. Should we follow their children around and give them the same treatment? I think if we did, then the media would back off these politicians.

GROVE: Well, I am not following anybody's children around. And I'm not following the Bush girls around.

BEGALA: In truth, if someone called you from a bar and said, "Hey, the children of the owners of The Washington Post or The New York Times are here and drinking." Would you run it?

GROVE: Well, I don't think I -- I mean ...

BEGALA: Damn straight you wouldn't run it.

CARLSON: No way, you'd never run it in a million years because they'd be irritated with you. And that's the key difference. You're never going to see the president, but you work with these guys so you're not going to expose the foibles of their children. That's the difference, is it not?

GROVE: No, that's not the difference. The difference is that there's a different standard, I think, in the media today for the first family and the president. There is no zone -- I mean, this is the situation we find ourselves in. There is no zone of privacy for the president. Everything the president does is public. Is that correct?

CARLSON: Well, it is now.




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