White House Must "Defend" Not Informing Reporters about Laura Bush's Skin Cancer

Before the November election,first lady LauraBush had an operation to removefrom her leg abasal cell carcinoma, a relatively common and treatable form of skin cancer. Now, the White House press corps is demanding why they weren't informed until now.

Like the headline, "White House Defends Not Disclosing First Lady's Skin Cancer", Jim Rutenberg's lead portrays the non-disclosure of a private operation as something that needs "defending." "The White House on Tuesday defended a decision by the office of the first lady, Laura Bush, not to disclose the removal of a skin cancer tumor on her shin for several weeks, saying she had no duty to do so because she did not hold elected office."

Rutenberg makes the argument: "Mr. Snow said Mrs. Bush had a right to privacy because she was not a public official, even though she was a public persona and campaigned heavily for Republicans this fall. Asked if the administration was sending a mixed signal by keeping her cancer private while stressing the importance of public awareness in fighting cancer, Mr. Snow said: 'O.K., well, we consider it stressed. Absolutely, take care of yourselves. Get tested all the time.'"

Rutenberg also commented on Snow's answer yesterday on 'The Caucus," the Times' political blog, and didn't seem to appreciate White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's answer.

"When a First Lady has a cancer scare should everybody hear about it? The answer from the White House today is, 'not necessarily.'"

"Asked about the late disclosure this morning Mr. Snow said that, A) it was not a very big deal operation, and B) 'She's not a public official, she's the wife of the president.'

"Reporters shouted out that she happens to be a very public figure with her own taxpayer-paid office and staff at the White House. And that she had been out on the campaign trail quite a lot.

"But also, Mr. Snow said, 'she's fine.' So there."

The Times' touchiness is reminiscent of its reaction to its failure to be informed immediately about Vice President Dick Cheney's accidental shooting of a friend and hunting partner.