BOOK UNFLATTERING TO BUSH DRAWS HIS CAMPAIGN'S FIRE
Anticipating a barrage of unflattering accusations and innuendo about
President Bush's personal life in a soon-to-be-published book by the
celebrity biographer Kitty Kelley, the Bush campaign has opened a wave
of advance counterstrikes intended to undermine her
A representative of the White House recently called Neal Shapiro,
president of NBC News, to discourage that network from broadcasting
interviews with Ms. Kelley about the book on its "Today" program and
on its MSNBC cable program "Hardball With Chris Matthews," a network
The Republican Party distributed a memorandum this week to
conservative radio talk show hosts listing tawdry, unproved assertions
in Ms. Kelley's previous books, especially her biography of Nancy
Reagan. And Ed Gillespie, the party chairman, sent a letter to
supporters portraying her book as a tool of the Democrats' campaign.
"This book is fiction and deserves to be treated as such," said
Christine Iverson, a Republican spokeswoman.
The book, "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty," is not
scheduled for publication until next week, but it has already become
a subject of intense interest in Washington as word seeped out that
it could contain salacious disclosures about Mr. Bush and his father,
less than two months before the election.
In a back and forth yesterday, Sharon Bush, the former wife of the
president's brother Neil and a central source for the book, issued a
pre-emptive retraction after a British newspaper printed an article on
the book, quoting Ms. Bush as saying that Mr. Bush used cocaine at
Camp David while his father was in office.
"I categorically deny that I ever told Kitty Kelley that George W.
Bush used cocaine at Camp David or that I ever saw him use cocaine at
Camp David," Ms. Bush said in an unsworn statement distributed by her
lawyer, David Berg. "Although there have been tensions between me and
various members of the Bush family, I cannot allow this falsehood to
Doubleday, the book's publisher and part of the Random House division
of Bertelsmann, said it stood by Ms. Kelley's reporting. The publisher
said in a statement that Ms. Kelly met with Ms. Bush for a four-hour
lunch on April
1, 2003, where an unnamed third party heard the
conversation, and that Ms. Kelley's editor, Peter Gethers, discussed
the same material with Ms. Bush over the phone.
Lou Colasuonno, a former publicist for Ms. Bush, confirmed that he was
the third party at the lunch and contradicted her denial. "I have not
seen the book, I have only seen news reports," Mr. Colasuonno said.
"According to what I have seen, what has been reported, I would not
A copy of the book was obtained by The New York Times. Ms. Kelley
writes that she spent four years and interviewed nearly a thousand
people in researching the book, which spans three generations of
Bushes. Little, if any, of its content is flattering to the family.
Ms. Kelley treats subjects as far-flung as the pranks the younger
George Bush played at boarding school at Andover and his jocular use
of obscene language in the years before taking office. But she also
discusses questions about how he avoided serving in Vietnam, about
excessive drinking and whether he used illegal drugs and about his
business career. It is a fast-paced, gossipy narrative that relies on
second-hand or unnamed sources for much of its new and most vivid details.
Asked about the book, Scott McClellan, a spokesman for the White
House, said yesterday: "It is a book filled with garbage, garbage that
was discredited, disavowed and dismissed years ago. This is not the
first time we have seen such baseless and trashy fabrications from the
Through a spokeswoman, Stephen Rubin, the publisher of Doubleday,
called Ms. Kelley "a dogged journalist who is unafraid to take on some
of the most powerful personalities of our time."
"Kitty has never had to retract anything published in any of her books
nor has she ever lost a lawsuit," Mr. Rubin added. "She is a brave,
insightful and persistent investigative reporter."
Yesterday, a Bush-Cheney campaign official confirmed that "we called
NBC and expressed our concern." The Republican Party sent conservative
radio shows an e-mail message headlined, "New Kelley Book, Same Old
Kelley Slime," listing articles questioning aspects of her previous
Mr. Gillespie's memorandum also cited some of the unseemly,
hard-to-prove assertions in Ms. Kelley's biographies of Mrs. Reagan
and Frank Sinatra. Mr. Gillespie said the description of Mr. Bush's
using drugs at Camp David was "as credible as her story that
then-Governor and Nancy Reagan smoked marijuana with Jack Benny and
George and Gracie Burns."