Jill Kelley (Chris O'Meara/AP) Jill Kelley (Chris O’Meara/AP)

Living under the scrutiny of the public eye can be harsh and unforgiving. False allegations and assumptions, wrong information and innuendo run rampant. And they bloom with the malevolence of algae in a stagnant pond when the objects of said scrutiny remains silent during the media storm.

So I completely understand the desire to set the record straight. But how people do it can add to the collective dim view of them.

Jill and Scott Kelley’s op-ed in The Post today is a prime example.

The Kelleys were big deals in Tampa. Through their volunteerism and philanthropy, they were part of the military social fabric that blankets that Florida city. The photos of them, particularly Jill with former general David Petraeus, attest to this. They also attest to their love of attention. That’s why their 719-word boo-hoo in today’s Post was a bit hard to take.

Our names were leaked as that story developed, and we were unable to attend Sunday Mass, see our daughter’s Christmas play or otherwise move about without the invasive lenses of paparazzi exposing our private family life for public consumption….

Suddenly, the attention they once sought out and the glare of the cameras became intrusive. So much so that, to get the media off her property in the days after the Petraeus-Paula Broadwell scandal broke, Jill called 911 and claimed she had some sort of diplomatic “inviolability” because she was “an honorary consul general.”

That they hired Judy Smith, the high-powered crisis manager who is the inspiration for Kerry Washington’s character on ABC’s “Scandal,” should tell you that they’re not messing around when it comes to defending themselves, correcting the record and clearing their names.

We were surprised to read that Jill had flown on private military jets (never); that she was a volunteer social planner (wrong); that we were suffering financially (false); and, most painful of all because of the innuendo surrounding the allegation, that some 30,000 e-mails were sent to a general from the e-mail address we share. This is untrue, and the insinuation that Jill was involved in an extramarital affair is as preposterous as it is hurtful to our family. This small sample of junk reporting was emotionally exhausting and damaging — as it would be to the strongest of families.

To curry more sympathy, the Kelleys made themselves poster children for a bill that so far has gone nowhere. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act governs the lawful access and disclosure of such communications. The 112th Congress considered legislation to strengthen the statute to cover e-mails in private accounts by requiring law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant to get them. The proposed bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. But the bill, which committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is determined to make law, must start back at square one in the 113th Congress.

Look, the Kelleys have every right to defend themselves, especially against a media horde that treated every morsel of “news” about them them like chum in a shark tank. But I’d forgotten all about them until their op-ed appeared, which required me to recall all the negative stuff about them I had to read when the story broke last November — the stuff that they are now decrying.

The Kelleys are not on par with Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who brazenly crashed a White House state dinner for the prime minister of India in November 2009 and then defended themselves in a nationally televised display of narcissism. But that’s only because they chose to break their silence in print. For now.

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Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.