Sunday, September 14, 2008


Shortly after Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee, announced his selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate, the pregnancy of her unwed, 17-year-old daughter made headlines. McCain's campaign and that of his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, agreed that candidates' children should be off limits to the media in their coverage of the election.

Do you think that the media crosses a line when it reports on candidates' children? Or is such coverage OK, once someone becomes a candidate for a public political office? Does the child's age make a difference and, if so, to what extent?

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at

You can also respond to the poll about this question that will appear on the right-hand side of the blog until polling is closed.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2008 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


Anonymous said...

I agree that children are off limits in most things, especially the dirty game of politics. Children are bystanders and would probably prefer more privacy. The media, God bless them, is so busy trying to fill the airwaves 24/7 with anything. When I think of how the quote regarding lipstick on a pig was talked and twirl and spun round and round, I simply laugh. John McCain said it first, and it was ok. When Obama used the same thought to make a point, suddenly it took on some negative meaning toward Palin. So, yes the media needs to check themselves about alot of stuff, and this includes other famous people. I don't need to know every time they sneeze or go to the restroom!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree, in general, that children should be off limits. So should religion, and many other subjects which the press (and many politicians) chooses to make a huge deal of. However, when someone is basing a political campaign, in any part, on "family values," their own family values become fair play. Palin, for example, is a staunch supporter of abstinence based sex "education." She wants the government to tell me how to raise my daughter -- and how to "teach" the boys she'll be dating, yet her daughter demonstrates just how ineffective that form of non-education is. She is the one who brought up the subject, so she has no cause for complaint when anyone points it out to her.

Anonymous said...

A man or woman running for elected office becomes a celebrity of sorts and should readily understand that the public considers all family members to be a major part of his/her life experience. As such, they are of legitimate interest to the public. Ordinary curiosity is reasonable, but “investigative reporting” is not. It’s one thing, for example, for a reporter to observe that a candidate’s daughter looks pregnant (married or not) and to ask the question; it’s another to start asking questions of schoolmates or others on the basis of a tip or speculation.

If media people discover in a routine review of police records that a child of a candidate or official was recently arrested, sure, ask the candidate/official about it. If he/she says “No comment,” let it go. Don’t dig for more information. The age of the child is irrelevant. If a child falls down the stairs in the candidate’s house and people see an ambulance rush him/her to the hospital, OK, ask the candidate what happened. But do not chase the ambulance, and respect the right of the candidate or official not to answer questions about what happened.

Best regards,

Phil Clutts

Harrisburg, NC

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about this one.

A child is supposedly a reflection of our teachings, a product of our experience.

So when someone, who aspires to be a leader of our Country, has family issues with their offspring, is it because they cannot handle their own?
Can that person be trusted to handle their responsibility, like they handle their family?
Do we as a society (candidate) pick and choose which issues should and should not be held to the light?

Yes a childs age should be a factor due to the limited emmulation of the Parents, but the older ones should be open season to assess the parents.

Jon Akutagawa
Orange County Register
Costa Mesa, CA

Anonymous said...

I've read the posts thus far and in most instances, that's exactly what most of the replies have been about: partisan politics. Most of the comments were couched in what appeared to be only trying to be "fair", but when the replies finally got around to the meat of the subject, =most came down to mouthing the reactions of the Democrat Party operatives in trying to "damn" Sarah Palin for having a normal family with children with problems, but used the argument that such indicated a weakness "vis-a-vis a supposed Republican agenda" . The Republican agenda is not basically about "family values", but about less government, so any comment criticizing Sarah Palin's children is simply going along with the Democrat Party reactions of trying to find any small thing wrong with Palin, when her presence on the McCain ticket is itself making a big difference in the losses in the polls of Obama vs. McCain. You cannot have a political question in a poll like "The Right Thing" and not expect replies to be anything but political answers.