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BOOK UNFLATTERING TO BUSH DRAWS HIS CAMPA

By Alfa, Sep 11, 2004 | |
  1. Alfa
    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
    credibility.

    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
    executive said.

    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
    go unchallenged."

    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
    dispute that."

    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
    author."

    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
    biographies.

    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."

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