A slew of Inauguration Day tweets targeting President Trump’s youngest child, Barron Trump, misfired spectacularly as Republicans and Democrats alike scrambled to the 10-year-old boy’s defense, prompting apologies Monday along with reminders that presidential children, even in the age of no-holds-barred social media, are viewed as off-limits.
From The Washington Times
Chelsea Clinton, who knows better than most, having spent eight years in the White House starting at age 12, admonished the hecklers, saying on Facebook, “Barron Trump deserves the chance every child does—to be a kid.”
“I think all of us need to agree collectively that this child’s life and all of the things about him need to stay off-limits,” said Andrea Billups, a former People magazine and Washington Times reporter who teaches journalism at the University of Florida.
“He did not run for office. He did not sign up for this, and he’s 10 years old,” Ms. Billups said. “It is unconscionable that people would call this little boy out in the public space, particularly those people who are opposed to the Trump presidency.”
Bustle magazine’s Jessica Lahitou, who made it clear she is no fan of the Republican president, wrote an article chastising the celebrities and others taking online potshots at Barron Trump.
“As a mother, this breaks my heart. I cannot imagine the immaturity and meanness necessary to drag someone’s child into an adult dislike of a political leader,” she said.
Some of those who ran afoul of the leave-the-kids-alone rule quickly retreated. Comedy writer Katie Rich of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” was suspended — and apologized Monday — for her post saying Barron “will be this country’s first homeschool shooter.”
“I sincerely apologize for the insensitive tweet,” said Ms. Rich, who was hired by SNL in December 2013. “I deeply regret my actions & offensive words. It was inexcusable & I’m so sorry.”
Comedy Central contributor Stephen Spinola backed off on Monday from his tweet calling the boy “a very handsome date rapist-to-be.”
“I believe in Math and the stats are saying I made a bad joke. I truly apologize if it hurt Barron Trump’s feelings,” Mr. Spinola said on Twitter after a deluge of criticism.
Julie Bowen, who plays a role on the ABC sitcom “Modern Family,” offended some followers with her Instagram posts showing photos of Barron during the inaugural program with captions such as, “Barron, a voting majority shares your horror.”
Ms. Bowen, who included the hashtag #barronforpresident on her posts, later explained, “I love that Barron is a kid being a kid. My kids would be a horror show at a public event! Just trying to keep it light.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper denounced the Barron mockery as “odious, immoral & self-defeating.”
Barron may be younger than most, but he isn’t the first presidential progeny to be roughed up in the media. Unflattering remarks early on about Chelsea Clinton prompted first lady Hillary Clinton to call for a halt to the jokes.
Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh apologized for making a crack, and “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels removed comments from a “Wayne’s World” sketch in which Wayne, played by Mike Myers, says “adolescence has been thus far unkind” to Chelsea.
The hands-off policy regarding White House children has extended for the most part since, including through the two terms of President Obama.
Violators have been dealt with severely in the public square. A Republican staffer resigned in 2014 after she publicly criticized Obama teenage daughters Sasha and Malia for looking bored and wearing short skirts during a Thanksgiving ceremony.
The anything-goes reaction on social media to Barron doing nothing more than attending the inaugural could be a sign of things to come in a social media universe dominated by Twitter, said Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.
“This is certainly the first incoming president with a pre-adolescent child in the Twitter age, not just the internet age,” said Ms. Perry.
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