Secret Service agents, school officials veto students' coverage of first family

College journalists learn stories about President Bush, daughter Barbara are no laughing matter

In February, three Secret Service agents detained and questioned Glenn Given, managing editor of the Stony Brook Press, a satirical campus newspaper at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, about a column he wrote in which he asked God to "smite" President Bush.

According to Given, the agents said they feared the article might be interpreted by some as a divine call to harm the president. A faculty member who became concerned after reading the column called the Secret Service.

But Given said his column was an attempt to express his frustration with the president and was not intended to be taken literally.

"The intent of the editorial was absurdist satire," Given said. "This paper has a really strong history of being satirical ... and I wanted to keep with that tradition. But in no way did we actually want someone to go and kill the president."

According to federal law, it is illegal to "knowingly and willfully" threaten the president.

A spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service Field Office in Melville, N.Y., refused to comment on the incident.

According to the Yale Daily News, the dean of student affairs at Yale University ordered student editors of Rumpus, a campus humor magazine, to remove a story about first daughter Barbara Bush from the magazine's Web site. The story, entitled "O Daughter, Where Art Thou," detailed the Secret Service's problems keeping track of Bush, a freshman at the university.

Neither Jared LeBoff, editor of Rumpus, nor Nathaniel Pincus-Roth, author of the story, would comment on the situation. LeBoff did tell the News that the request to remove the story from the publication's Web site was reasonable.

"I don't think the response by Yale was inappropriate," he said.

Rumpus' Web site said the April issue was unavailable.

Betty Trachtenberg, the dean who spoke to the students, called the story "the most irresponsible kind of press that could possibly happen."

reports, Spring 2001