Barry Saunders

C’mon people, leave Barron Trump and all kids of politicians alone – Saunders

Is it OK to criticize Barron Trump, son of the President?

News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders and photojournalist Travis Long talk to people in Raleigh about recent criticism of the President's 10-year-old son Barron.
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News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders and photojournalist Travis Long talk to people in Raleigh about recent criticism of the President's 10-year-old son Barron.

Even the mafia leaves women and children alone.

You know how there’s always one person in the office who ignores that memo the boss sends out saying wearing flip flops to work on Casual Friday is unacceptable? The violator is usually the person with the most tore-up toes.

Some people, likewise, ignore the memo saying disparaging and ridiculing a 10-year-old child isn’t acceptable, regardless of how odious one finds the kid’s paterfamilias.

In modern presidential history, First Young’uns ranging from Amy Carter to Chelsea Clinton – remember when Rush Limbaugh compared her then 12-year-old self to a dog? – to the Obama daughters have all been subjected to public ridicule and scorn simply because of who their parents were.

“Saturday Night Live” recently suspended one of its writers who thought it the height of snarky sophistication to tweet that the new president’s 10-year-old son, Barron Trump, is destined to become “the world’s first home-schooled shooter.” Others of lesser or greater public renown have picked at him and speculated on his health.

Suspended, you say? Any jerk who’d say something like that about a 10-year-old is unlikely to be edified by being denied the right to submit a joke for Weekend Update.

I asked two-time, two-term North Carolina governor James B. Hunt if the president’s prepubescent progeny should be off-limits to tweeters, haters and commentators.

“Dadgum right,” Hunt said. “I don’t stand with President Trump on a lot of things, but I stand with him on being opposed to his youngest son being talked about.”

Y’all hear that? Don’t mess with the chirren.

When Hunt was first elected, his family’s transition to the governor’s mansion was a trying time, he said.

“My son was in junior high school at the time, and he hated leaving his friends in Wilson County,” Hunt said. “He was so lonely that my wife had to go back home every weekend and bring some of his friends up here to Raleigh to stay with him in the governor’s mansion.”

Former North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt was a political veteran and knew that criticism came with the J-O-B. His wife and children, however, weren’t so understanding.

Hunt was a political veteran and knew that criticism came with the J-O-B. His wife and children, however, weren’t so understanding.

Nor should they have been. The Hunts occupied the mansion before social media became a thing, but that doesn’t mean they were insulated from the slings and arrows – legitimate or not – directed at the governor.

“One time,” Hunt said, “The News & Observer was after me about something ... and they printed a story and my family was upset. My youngest daughter, who was about in the first grade, wrote a letter to the editor laying them out. She snuck out of the mansion and put it in the mailbox, and my wife had to get the SBI to go out and get the letter.”

Another incident, involving his oldest daughter, provoked the anger and protective instincts of his wife. A picture of his daughter, who daily drove to Wilson County to finish her senior year of high school, appeared in a newspaper, he said. “My wife was furious that that picture of the car my daughter drove every day was in the paper for everybody to see. She thought it was a security risk. ... Listen, that wasn’t the biggest deal in the world, but the younger the children, the more protection they deserve.”

He was adamant, he said, that not only should children of public officials “not be mistreated” by the public – but they “shouldn’t be talked about at all.”

Halleluyer!

There are exceptions to every rule, and there was once a 10-year-old kid I didn’t like.

Of course, I was 10 at the time, too. My nemesis’ name was Billy Ray and he was better at basketball than I was. I didn’t tweet anything bad about him, though, because he was better at baseball than I was, too – and could chunk a rock and seemingly make it curve around the corner and hit you upside the head when you tried to run away.

Also, Twitter hadn’t been invented yet.

When it comes to saying nasty things about the president’s 10-year-old son, we should all act as though it still hasn’t been invented.

Following up

Several readers contacted me last week inquiring about how to get in touch with and help the Rev. Farleyson Tarley, the preacher who was so full of forgiveness after being viciously assaulted and robbed in Durham earlier this month. The address of his church, People’s Christian Church, is 2618 Harvard Ave. in Durham, 27703.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, @BarrySaunders9

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