updated 7/13/2008 5:21:56 PM ET 2008-07-13T21:21:56

It's the interview scoop that quickly gave Barack Obama second thoughts, and not because it revealed he leaves his suitcase where his children can trip over it.

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The "Access Hollywood" interview in which Obama and wife Michelle allowed daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, to participate opened a curtain on a potential president's family and raised questions about whether the girls should be "hands off" for the media.

Although their parents did most of the talking and the girls mostly looked like they'd rather be going out for ice cream, Obama later said he and his wife got carried away in agreeing to it.

"I don't think it's healthy and it's something that we'll be avoiding in the future," Obama said Wednesday on "Good Morning America."

Rob Silverstein wishes Obama hadn't said that. The "Access Hollywood" executive producer believes Obama has nothing to regret.

"Access Hollywood" pursued Obamas
The interview, spread out in four parts on the show last week, was conducted by correspondent Maria Menounos when the Obamas were in Montana on July 4. Sensing their viewers' interest in the campaign, syndicated entertainment newsmagazines have done many light personality segments on the candidates, giving them a non-challenging opportunity to show off their human side.

"Access Hollywood" had been pursuing the Obamas for months, and a producer was alerted that the couple would make time for them while in Montana.

The show intended to simply interview Barack and Michelle Obama. But Menounos ingratiated herself with the kids — bonding over girlish enthusiasm for the Jonas Brothers — and they sat next to their parents for the interview. Producers quickly clipped microphones on their blouses.

"There was a very loose atmosphere," Silverstein said. "It was one of those things where it was like lightning in a bottle. We got lucky."

Generally, it's not a good idea to make children that age available for interviews, said Charles Figley, chairman of the psycho-social stress research program at Tulane University. It can give children big heads and make them feel they have to perform, he said. A parent in this situation should also keep public images of their children to a minimum to avoid any abuse over the Internet.

That said, the "Access Hollywood" situation was the most ideal setting the Obamas could expect: it was an easygoing interview in a relaxed setting, with the children protected within the bonds of the family, Figley said.

Barack Obama's later regrets seemed to have less to with the interview itself than the way clips of it were played over and over on cable stations.

At least according to what aired on "Access Hollywood," Menounos directed most of her questions to the parents. It wasn't until the third segment that she even asked the children a question: "What have you guys thought about the possibility of living in the White House someday?"

"It'd be very cool," Sasha said. The older Malia said she was enthusiastic about the idea of redecorating a room.

Parents don't like whining
Menounos also asked what they could do that would make their parents mad at them ("whining," Sasha replied) and whether they found it cool that magazines were looking toward their mother for fashion sense.

"The 10-year-old, Malia, is like something you've never seen before," Silverstein said. "She is a spitfire. She is way beyond her years. How fascinating it is to listen to these children talk. You can't imagine a 10-year-old so poised and smart and well-behaved."

Linda Ellerbee, who makes the "Nick News" specials for Nickelodeon, hasn't requested interview time for the Obama children, although she imagines Nick's audience would be keenly interested in them.

When interviewing children for her shows, Ellerbee always assures them that she would never let them make fools of themselves. If the child says something they later regret, or flubs an answer, Ellerbee will always allow a retake — a courtesy that news organizations generally don't offer adults.

If offered a chance to speak to Malia, Ellerbee said she'd like to film the girl going about her typical day and essentially ask: What is it like to be you?

"That's a fantastically interesting question," she said. "Whether we get to find that out about her, it won't break my heart not to know. I don't think the public has a right to know."

Cones of privacy
President Bush and his predecessor, President Bill Clinton, tried to establish cones of privacy around their daughters when dad moved into the White House. Some questioned whether that effort was too zealous when Chelsea, now a 28-year-old professional woman, refused media interviews while campaigning for her mother this year.

He would lean in the same direction if in the same shoes, said Joe Kelly, co-founder and president of Dads and Daughters, an organization that promotes the father-daughter relationship.

Kelly suspects the Obamas are reacting much like any parents would in the situation.

"You learn as you go along," he said. "You learn as the kids grow and you learn about them as people and what's good for them and what's not good for them."

The pugnacious Silverstein suspects disdain for "Access Hollywood" is playing out in questions about whether it was a bad thing to put Malia and Sasha Obama on camera.

"I don't buy that," he said. "The kids are well-adjusted, terrific kids with a well-adjusted family. I hardly think that a 25-minute interview with 'Access Hollywood' is going to affect them. Anyone who says that in the media, it's just sour grapes. They're just mad that they didn't get it."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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