Republicans rocked as Palin says teen daughter pregnant
September 1, 2008
ST PAUL, Minnesota (AFP) — Republican vice presidential pick Sarah Palin revealed Monday that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant, in the latest bombshell to rock the Hurricane Gustav-curtailed Republican convention.
The surprise choice of Palin as White House hopeful John McCain’s running mate last week electrified the Republican Party’s social conservative base, in particular evangelical Christians who had been reluctant to back McCain.
On Monday Palin, a 44-year-old mother of five and an outspoken abortion foe, shook up the election campaign again by revealing that her teenage daughter was pregnant and planning to marry the baby’s father.
“Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned,” she said in a statement with her husband Todd.
“We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support,” they said.
“Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family.
“We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi’s privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates.”
Palin, the governor of Alaska, was holed up in the convention city St Paul on Monday with no public engagements scheduled.
McCain earlier flew into Philadelphia, as he monitored the fallout from Hurricane Gustav, which was hammering the Louisiana coast and prompted the Republican candidate to severely curtail the convention’s opening day
The revelation that Palin’s daughter is pregnant appeared to be a bid to hit back at unsourced rumors on liberal blogs that Palin’s daughter was the mother of the Alaska governor’s fifth child, Trig.
A McCain campaign official said on condition of anonymity that the Arizona senator knew about the condition of Palin’s daughter, who is reportedly five months into the pregnancy, when he asked her to be his vice presidential nominee last week.
A midday news conference involving senior McCain aides was cancelled, shortly after the news about Bristol Palin broke.
Convention delegates were meanwhile preparing to meet, overshadowed by Gustav and ominous memories of Hurricane Katrina, the botched handling of which three years ago hammered the Republican brand.
The convention will be confined to a two-hour session on Monday focused on the legal procedures needed to nominate presidential and vice presidential candidates.
First Lady Laura Bush and McCain’s wife Cindy were due to make speeches to kick-start a emergency fund-raising drive as the political jamboree turned into a Gustav relief rally.
The party scurried to change its convention plans amid fears of being seen to stage a political celebration while a monster storm pummels the Louisiana coast.
With most political rhetoric barred, Laura Bush will unveil video appearances from several of the governors in Gulf coast states, after the convention opens later Monday.
Cindy McCain will then ask delegates for help and donations for the relief efforts once the storm has passed, said Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager.
The Republican nominee earlier lent a hand to volunteers packing boxes of supplies to go to people stricken by Hurricane Gustav in Ohio.
“This is what it’s all about,” McCain told reporters, as he helped pack disinfectant, rags, gloves, a bag of soaps and hygiene products and toys into a white plastic bin labelled Hurricane Gustav Relief Supplies.
“This epitomizes the millions of American people who are serving on behalf of causes greater than their self interest. They’re putting their country first, so I want to thank you again,” he told the volunteers.
Davis said that as Gustav rumbles over Louisiana, it will become clearer if the four-day convention can resume its normal program on Tuesday.
“We will continue to watch it closely, by tomorrow morning, we will have a firm fix on what we will be able to do programatically, at least on Tuesday,” Davis said.
But he downplayed suggestions McCain could deliver his acceptance speech on Thursday by satellite from the disaster zone, saying there were no such plans at this point.
Convention organizers have also set up a phone bank in St Paul to encourage political donors to funnel money to hurricane victims, while delegates will work on producing 80,000 care packages to be sent to the disaster zone.
Democratic candidate Barack Obama meanwhile curtailed his campaign schedule to return to his hometowm of Chicago to monitor the hurricane.