If Jenna Bush is a pothead, is it news?

By James Pinkerton

Published March 27, 2001 9:00AM (EST)

Read the story.

What a reprehensible decision to publish an unsubstantiated exposé on the personal life of a 19-year-old college freshman. Is Salon so astoundingly disingenuous that they can innocently ask of Jenna Bush's alleged pot use "is it news?" while trumpeting the story in the center column?

Salon rightly criticized the deplorable intrusions into Bill Clinton's private life during the impeachment travesty, but by running this piece they commit the same offense against the child of a member of the opposing political party. Pinkerton admits that Jenna "has been convicted of nothing," but in the next sentence justifies his speculations by vaguely associating Jenna with "the legal system her father oversees."

This article is the most offensive kind of political opportunism, and both Salon and Pinkerton should be ashamed.

-- Alex Dennis

I'm sorry, this is the James Pinkerton, not another James Pinkerton, but the right-wing writer for Newsday? And did the James Pinkerton just write a story that could be considered, possibly, just a wee bit, not critical but, say, admonitory, of the Bush regime?

I'm feeling faint. I'm going to fan myself and lie down.

-- Abigail Quart

Jenna Bush may not be addicted to crack, like the daughter of the drug czar in the film "Traffic," but the essential hypocrisy is the same. Not only are the children of the rich and powerful relatively immune to prosecution, those who talk so tough about cracking down on the drug problem have kids using illegal substances.

This sort of blindness ensures that a rational approach to drug policy will never be adopted. As long as the enemies in the war on drugs (i.e., war on black people) are believed to reside in poor, inner-city neighborhoods, and not in every neighborhood, no progress can be made to understand the reality of drug use.

-- Peter Lenardon

Maybe Jenna Bush smoked pot, or maybe she didn't. Who cares? She's a total babe.

But seriously, the real hypocrite is George W. Bush, not his 19-year-old daughter. Jenna is not responsible for her father's immoral drug policies, and she should not be made to pay for her father's political sins.

The media should leave her alone, and focus on the people currently occupying the West Wing -- not some college dorm in Texas.

-- Donald Koelper

If Jenna Bush is a pothead, should it be news? Certainly: It's about time the media reported Bush scandals. They gave her father a pass on all the scandals for which there is sufficient evidence.

You can be certain that if it were learned that Chelsea were a pothead, Dan Burton would be investigating and calling for a special prosecutor.

According to National Review's John Derbyshire, politicians' children are "fair game" -- at least when the politicians are the Clintons. If he won't report on Bush's kids' law-breaking, who will?

I say go with it.

-- Joseph Nagarya

If anyone had even breathed the possibility that Chelsea Clinton had used pot, the media would have been all over her and her parents like ticks on a dog.

The issue here is not the war on drugs, but the media's own double standard.

-- Annie Reasoner

An excellent article that asks questions that should be answered: not just by Bush, but by all politicians with children, all politicians who have "experimented" yet find themselves above the laws they vote on. When will someone force some answers?

-- Harold Beaudreau

It does not seem unusual to me that the press is so reticent to pursue this Jenna Bush story. People smoke pot all the time without going to jail. It may be the case that 600,000 people get arrested for possession every year, but how many of the 100 million pot dabblers in America have ever been arrested?

It seems to me that consequences for pot use among college kids are rare. This article insinuates that there is some kind of double standard at play here, but that would only be the case if the story was that Bush had been treated differently after getting caught by law enforcement with pot. As it is, she's just like the millions of other Americans who smoke pot and never get caught.

Incidentally, my sources at Stanford tell me that Chelsea was a bit of a stoner. If I have heard this, some people in the press must have heard it. But I think a good precedent was set with Chelsea: Let college kids be college kids.

-- Bart Torvik

Ironically, your report on Jenna Bush's suspected marijuana use sent me to, of all places, IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Higher Education. For people that aren't tax literate, our government provides tax relief for higher education: 1) The hope credit for a student in the first two years of college can reduce his or her parents' taxes by $500 per student, and 2) The lifetime learning credit which can also offset tax due.

However, you cannot get the hope credit for a child who has been convicted of any federal or state felony for possessing or distributing a controlled substance as of the end of the tax year.

-- Jack Tew

Perhaps Jenna Bush should be subjected to the same test most Americans must endure when they apply for a job (even at Wal-Mart!): a drug test. This would clear things up considerably. Besides, drug testing establishes the "guilty until proven innocent" stance that the rest of us must live by. And the same "rationale" should apply to her as applies to us: If she has nothing to hide, why not take the test?

I'm not advocating a witch hunt for Jenna. Frankly, I hope she is a pothead. Perhaps it helps her to understand her father's mangled syntax.

But many harmless weekend marijuana users live in fear of random drug tests sprung on them every Monday morning that would cost them their jobs and much more. The laws must change, and I'm confident that Mr. Bush hasn't the will, intellect or chutzpah to do it.

In addition to this story, there are plenty more that the allegedly "liberal" press will not touch because of Bush's status and stature: For example, were extra holes punched in those "over-vote" cards in Florida in predominately Democratic areas? We very likely had an illegal election in this country, and no one seems to care -- not even the press who hasn't had the balls to touch it since January.

I look to Salon to keep us abreast of this and many more "smelly" issues that surround our selected president.

-- Beau Hooker

One of the functions of journalism is to bring useful facts to the attention of the public. James Pinkerton's in-depth research for his commentary about the media coverage of Jenna Bush apparently consisted of little more than calling up two journalistic friends of his in Austin and Washington.

If Pinkerton truly wants a "big story," perhaps Salon should fly him out to Austin to wear out some shoe leather himself and independently verify whether any of the allegations are true. If Salon is unwilling to put forth the effort, maybe it shouldn't publish articles examining other media organizations' lack of interest in these rumors.

I have been a reader of Salon for several years, and I dearly miss its provocative highbrow beginnings, including Wanderlust (now available in book form, but sadly one of the first sections to be cut from the Web site). When one of its reporters tried to infect a Republican presidential candidate with the flu last year, I was shocked but somehow continued reading.

Have Salon's attempts to become an e-pulp publication now taken it so far from its management's roots in one of the nation's greatest newspapers that it is no longer interested in concrete facts?

-- Richard Koehl

The proposition that the mainstream press (including Mr. Pinkerton's estimable employer, Newsday) should be ashamed for not following the National Enquirer's idea of news judgment, and is thus complicit in some kind of racist cabal with the court system and drug laws against our citizenry, is ludicrous. Newspapers need to include less of the pap chased down by publications like the Enquirer, not more.

One of the most frustrating things for me as a reporter is to see how much celebrity coverage is creeping into newsholes once reserved for, say, news. Even the three National Enquirer "coups" pointed out by Mr. Pinkerton had questionable worth. What of lasting importance came from all those thousands of column inches about O.J.? Or Jesse Jackson's love child? Nothing, unless you count kowtowing to the public's most prurient instincts. I don't know what to make yet of the Hugh Rodham deal since it's ongoing.

I think the worst part is that, to prove a point, Mr. Pinkerton convicted a 19-year-old girl of drug use in the court of public opinion without a shred of evidence. Do you think that anyone who reads this Web site and Mr. Pinkerton's article will ever be able to see or hear of Jenna Bush again without at least thinking "dope head?" And what is this accusation based on? A single unidentified source in a National Enquirer article. Good lord, have we sunk this far as journalists?

Would Mr. Pinkerton's editors allow him to run a story using that source? I know mine wouldn't. That Mr. Pinkerton is fighting for a worthy cause in this column does not excuse using a baseless story developed by a worthless rag to embarrass the president's daughter, no matter whether you agree with his policies or not.

-- Ted Flanagan

By Salon Staff

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