Brian Bilbray remembers that
years ago, when he first ran for Congress, a political attack ad
would sting all the more when his five children saw it. If the TV
was saying that Daddy was a crook, Bilbray had to find a way to
soften the blow for his then-young children.
His now-grown offspring may have learned last week – the hard
way – that it pays to be circumspect about their own lives now
that Daddy is back in office.
As Bilbray was busy conducting his first full week as the
congressman elected to finish the term of imprisoned former
lawmaker Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a popular political blog was
busy posting pictures of the Carlsbad Republican's two youngest
children – one of them 19 – in various poses holding beer and
liquor bottles. The photos initially were posted elsewhere online
by the Bilbray kids themselves.
There's his 21-year-old son, Patrick, holding a beer, eyes half
closed, giving a thumbs-up and wearing a cap that reads, “Town
And there's his 19-year-old daughter, Briana, holding a Corona
in one photo while a girlfriend stands next to her with a bottle
of Jack Daniel's. In a third picture, Briana sits beside a cooler
with several beer bottles lined up before her.
The blog remarks are brutal: “Don't congressmen have, like,
people in charge of . . . password-protecting their . . .
daughter's photo albums of underage partying?” one comment reads.
Another adds: “I thought we were a nation of laws! I guess as
long as his underage kids aren't drinking with illegal aliens,
And a third: “May I recommend a congressional 'spawn-gone-wild'
Now, to be fair, the kids have no one to blame but themselves.
Briana and Patrick had posted the photos themselves on that
controversial cyber-place known as MySpace, an online
social-networking site popular with the young crowd. The photos
were easily accessible in Briana's public Photobucket account –
which, incidentally, was speedily password-protected after a
political gossip blog called Wonkette got hold of them.
A reader who forwarded a link of the photos to The San Diego
Union-Tribune said in an e-mail that he only was interested
in sending an interesting item to a local media outlet. No vast
right-wing conspiracy to slam Bilbray. Not even a vast left-wing
“Really, there was no motive in doing what I did,” he wrote to
a reporter. “Just impulse.”
Launched in January 2004, the Wonkette gossip blog is owned by
Gawker Media LLC, and was responsible for the widespread
distribution of the photos, along with the commentary. Wonkette
gained notoriety some time ago when its founding editor revealed
that a young GOP staffer was blogging about her many sexual
escapades, including one with a married Bush administration
official who paid for her favors.
Those crazy kids
As for Wonkette, now a well-read Web site in Washington and
political circles, its posting of the Bilbray photos was sure to
get national attention.
Who knows if Wonkette had a political agenda, posting the
photos just days after Bilbray was sworn into office. Wonkette
editors say only that “all the information we have is contained in
the post itself” by the Bilbray children.
Which brings us to Dad, the guy who really had more pressing
matters – like immigration reform – to attend to last week.
“Their mother is not real happy,” said Bilbray, who during his
six-year hiatus from Congress hasn't lost his knack for plain-spokenness.
“I think Briana is outraged by it. It doesn't seem to bother
Patrick at all.”
So we suppose this winds up a cautionary tale: MySpace is the
Web site recently targeted by parents, schools and law enforcers
worried that youngsters visiting the site might fall victim to
sexual predators. While we clearly don't have such seriousness
going on with the Bilbray kids' posting, the Web site does have 87
million users who go to it to access message boards, games and Web
“The fact is, you've got college kids who do crazy things,”
Wilkie is a Washington-based correspondent for Copley News Service
and a longtime observer of California politics and social issues.