Chelsea Profiled Against Clintons' Wish
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 5, 1999; Page C2
People magazine, rejecting a personal appeal from the president and first lady to respect their daughter's privacy, published a generally admiring profile of Chelsea Clinton yesterday.
In a preemptive strike Wednesday night, the White House contacted reporters and issued an unusual statement from the President and Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying, "We deeply regret and are profoundly saddened by the decision of People magazine to print a cover story featuring our daughter Chelsea." An administration official said the statement followed People's decision to give an advance copy to the syndicated TV show "Entertainment Tonight."
Sources familiar with the situation say the White House had Secret Service officials call Time Inc. Editor in Chief Norman Pearlstine to ask that the article be spiked because of security concerns. The Stanford University sophomore receives Secret Service protection.
At yesterday's daily press briefing, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart declined to elaborate on the controversy, saying only that the first couple "very much appreciate everyone in this room who has respected their family's privacy on this issue and it is their hope, as we move into the future, you will continue to do so."
The piece on Chelsea Clinton is headlined "Grace Under Fire: An intimate look at the deep bond of love that sustains the Clinton women through their painful family ordeal."
People had no comment yesterday. The Time Inc. magazine stood by an earlier statement from Managing Editor Carol Wallace: "There is a great deal of admiration for this mother-daughter relationship. Over the years, we have written about the Clinton family in good times and bad. Chelsea is nearly 19 years old and a poised young adult. We feel that because she is an eyewitness to . . . historical events unfolding around her, that she is a valid journalistic subject."
The article examines how Chelsea Clinton is coping with the fallout from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. It says the president's daughter was angry after her father confessed his infidelity to her. "There was a terrible sense of betrayal," a former White House aide is quoted as saying. The Clintons were decribed as furious when the president's brother, Roger, told Paris Match that the scandal had "profoundly affected" Chelsea.
The piece also recounts Chelsea's breakup with her boyfriend at Stanford and quotes a friend as saying "she's under a lot of stress." But Chelsea was described as being upbeat on Dec. 19, the day her father was impeached, and worrying aloud about being late for a party.
The president and first lady posed with Chelsea for an anecdote-filled People cover story during the 1992 presidential campaign, one of the few times they have exposed their daughter to the glare of the media. But the newfound focus on Clinton family matters in the wake of the Lewinsky saga has made the first couple even more protective of their daughter.
Some Time Inc. staffers were struck by the administration's aggressive response, noting that the Clintons cooperated on a Father's Day piece in USA Today and Vogue's coverage of Hillary and Chelsea Clinton's trip to Africa.
In their statement Wednesday night, the Clintons said: "For over six years, the media has understood and respected the unique situation facing Chelsea as she grows up in the spotlight focused on her parents. Other than in public situations where she is an integral part of our family, we have been very grateful for the media's restraint in allowing Chelsea the privacy that any young person needs and deserves.
"Unfortunately, despite personal appeals with respect to her privacy and her security from her parents, People magazine has chosen to run the story. We can only hope that the media will continue its policy of restraint with respect to our daughter."
The White House had little to say in November when the National Enquirer, the Star and the New York Post published stories on Chelsea struggling with the Lewinsky fallout, dismissing that as the work of mere tabloids. But the Clintons apparently felt that People, with its glossy reputation and 3.2 million circulation, could open the floodgates to more intrusive coverage of their daughter.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company