After Lee Whitnum, a University of Maryland and Harvard grad, posted photos and other memorabilia from her early-1990s relationship with John Kerry on the Internet last week, the Democratic nominee's foes and some tabloids made hay. "The senator's secret love: Coed tells tawdry tales of Kerry affair," beckoned a headline in the Boston Herald.
Whitnum has been blasted with more than 1,500 e-mails, many of them "nutty," she says. On Thursday her Web site crashed for nine hours, then Friday she yanked her romantic scrapbook from cyberspace, telling us, "It was too explosively controversial."
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A former computer science teacher who uses the pen name Lee Roystone, Whitnum has written a novel, "Hedge Fund Mistress," with a sketch of a topless woman on its cover and a chapter about a Massachusetts senator. Whitnum created her site, www.hedgefundmistress.com, to solicit orders, but says she won't release the book until after the election. "I don't want to hurt his campaign at all," she said from a location she wants to remain undisclosed. "I have nothing but complimentary things to say about him."
Her Kerry scrapbook provided a bittersweet account of love and rejection after 20 months of intermittently dating the senator, whom she met in 1990 at an Earth Day news conference in Boston. (The Kerry camp has declined to comment.) Whitnum was in her late twenties, earning a master's in education at Harvard; Kerry, in his mid-forties, was divorced from Julia Thorne and was not yet involved with Teresa Heinz.
By Whitnum's account, she and the senator used the pet names "Katherine" and "Michael" to keep the relationship quiet. "He was very romantic, a fascinating man," says Whitnum. "I thought the scrapbook would help people get to know him. I put it up in good faith, not so people would mock him. It wasn't an affair. He was single. I was a full-grown adult."
Her site repeatedly urges support for Kerry -- and for the ketchup heiress he met at another Earth Day and later married. "I think she's wonderful," Whitnum said. "She brings as much experience to the table as he does. He married a peer."
She has no hard feelings, but says, "I don't understand the hoopla. . . . I just want to go back to my quiet life."
Arthur Rowse, Getting A Raw Deal From Google?
Google may be all the buzz on Wall Street these days, but retiree Arthur Rowse of Chevy Chase won't be buying shares. He's fed up with the search-engine behemoth after being told it won't take his ads because Google says he's against a group "protected by law." Specifically, the Bush administration.
Rowse, 84, is marketing satirical playing cards that caricature President Bush, his Cabinet and supporters such as Ann Coulter, Grover Norquist and Bill Kristol. He calls the deck "the Bush House of Cards." When Rowse first tried to put an ad on Google nearly a year ago, the company e-mailed him saying, "The product you are selling is okay to advertise on Google, but your website contains content that advocates against the government and individuals. If you remove all commentary on your site that advocates against the government and individuals, your ad will then be in compliance with our guidelines."
Rowse, a former journalist, was astonished, telling Google its policy amounted to censorship. He said his site, BushHouseofCards.com, merely recommended games such as Bush Bridge and Powell Poker ("The winner is the first player to quit on principle"). Under protest, he removed Web pages describing the games. "The policy is just ridiculous," he told us. "It's particularly disturbing because Google has such power -- they're a quasi-public utility."
Last week he called Google and was told the policy stood -- even though he noticed other Google ads advocating against the president's policies. On Friday, for example, The Washington Post's Web site carried one saying, "George Bush's Time Is Up. ACT For the Good of the Nation! The clock is ticking."
Google spokesman Steve Langdon wouldn't discuss Rowse's case, but e-mailed us a statement saying, "Application of our policies will always involve an element of discretion and we reserve the right to reject or approve any ads."
We wouldn't blame Rowse if he saw a conspiracy against him: Last year the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected his application for a "Bush House of Cards" trademark. The ruling: He needed President Bush's consent to use the name. The examiner who decided the case: Karen Bush.
Officials assured us she's no relation, and it's just the law.
The Annals of Puffery
An occasional verbatim press release
"Headlines have been plagued with celebrity trials this summer -- Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Cameron Diaz and Courtney Love, to name just a few. With pleas of 'not guilty' before the courtroom, their appeals are reminiscent of Joseph K. in Franz Kafka's 'The Trial.' Above the law, breaking the law, whatever the law, it's clear that establishing one's innocence is the celebrity trend of the summer. . . . Montblanc's verdict is in: The Limited Edition Franz Kafka fountain pen is the ultimate accessory for summer trials. Dressed in bordeaux transparent resin, The Kafka writing instrument transitions from square to round. Available in fountain pen ($725) and ballpoint pen ($395) at Montblanc boutiques nationwide, including Washington DC Boutique."
With Anne Schroeder