STEPHAN SAVOIA / AP Enlarge
ST. PAUL - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced yesterday that her 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is five months pregnant and plans to have the baby and marry the father.
Bristol Palin's baby is due in late December.
"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," Ms. Palin, the presumptive Republican vice-presidential nominee, said in a statement issued by Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign.
"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," the statement said.
The announcement was made less than a week after Mr. McCain introduced Ms. Palin, casting her as an all-American mother with five children.
Her biography - which includes her giving birth to a son, Trig, with Down syndrome in mid-April - has been a touted as a key part of her appeal, especially to conservatives.
Almost since the day Ms. Palin was named as Mr. McCain's running mate, rumors have circulated on the Internet that raised questions about whether Bristol Palin was Trig's mother.
Senior McCain adviser Steve Schmidt said the campaign decided to issue a statement about Bristol Palin's pregnancy to help quell those rumors, which he called "disturbing, nasty smears."
Mr. Schmidt said Ms. Palin told them about her daughter's pregnancy about a week ago during final interviews for potential running mates.
He said that when Mr. McCain was informed, it did not deter him from moving ahead with adding her to the ticket and that he did not view her daughter's pregnancy as something that would disqualify her for the vice presidency.
Mr. Schmidt said he did not believe that the pregnancy would cause political problems for the ticket.
"It's a private family matter. Life happens in families," he said.
"If people try to politicize this, the American people will be appalled by it. The fact is that the American people, who are decent people, don't appreciate intrusions into the private space of good families."
In the statement issued yesterday, Ms. Palin pleaded for privacy and understanding.
It was also revealed yesterday that an attorney had been hired to represent Ms. Palin in a state ethics probe and that her husband, Todd, had been arrested for drunken driving two decades ago.
The man who led Mr. McCain's vice presidential search team said he thought everything that came up as a possible red flag during the background check has now been made public.
"I think so," Arthur Culvahouse, Jr., said. "Yes. I think so. Correct."
Ms. Palin told Mr. McCain's team about the pregnancy and her husband's old DUI during lengthy discussions about her background, aides said.
At several points, the
McCain team warned Ms. Palin the scrutiny into her private life would be intense and there was nothing she could do to prepare for it.