When I was 19, everything I did was stupid. I skipped class. I smoked Marlboro 27s. I snuck rum into a children’s movie and drank it out of a garbage bag. I went skinny dipping in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. I dated a philosophy major. These were all mistakes, but none of my friends ever blew up my spot about them, in part because I was not the child of a former President, but also because my friends weren’t assholes.
Malia Obama is catching flak today because she was reportedly caught on camera blowing some smoke rings, which is a fairly normal (and also sort of impressive) thing for a 19-year-old to do. All teens do stupid shit, and she is entitled to her privacy. I’m not linking to the article excitedly advertising the “Leaked Video.” You can search for it if you want to, but I implore you not to.
The media, collectively comprised of alleged adults, should back off of Malia, and Sasha, and Barron, and Tiffany, and any other politician’s child not actively seeking publicity (the elder Trump children are fair game). This discussion is not new, and it is not partisan. It wasn’t cool when reporters kept track of the Bush twins’ drinking back in the aughts, and it’s not cool now.
But if it is, in part, up to the media to let Malia live, it’s also up to her friends and classmates to stop selling her out. I did a lot of terrible things as a Terrible Teen, but I protected my friends and they protected me. I’d like to think that wouldn’t have changed whether or not they or I were famous.
It’s not clear whether today’s leaked video was taken by paparazzi or Malia’s peers, but if it was the latter it wouldn’t be the first time - it wasn’t that long ago that the internet was up in arms over a Snapchat of Malia playing beer pong that circulated thanks to an anonymous “source,” i.e., probably, one of Malia’s friends. If you’re lucky enough to get to blow smoke rings with Malia, or play beer pong with her, or hang out with her at Lollapalooza, or watch her make out with a hot dude, please don’t squander all that karmic goodwill by leaking the video to TMZ or the Daily Mail.
Doing dumb things when you’re young teaches you to do fewer dumb things as an adult, or at least it prepares you to handle the fallout. But a dumb thing you should never do is betray one of your own, no matter how old you are or how internet famous you’ll become.