How bad are things these days for President Bush? Even Jessica Simpson is dissing him. The singer, a Texas native, turned down an invitation to meet the president at a fundraiser because she was concerned about politicizing her favorite charity, Operation Smile, a nonprofit offering free plastic surgery for disadvantaged children with facial deformities.
Wednesday's snub left Republicans shaking their heads, according to a Reuters report, after a day of conflicting reports about whether Simpson would show up to a major Republican fundraiser scheduled for Thursday (March 16) night in Washington featuring Bush and congressional leaders.
Simpson is still expected to visit Washington Thursday to lobby members of Congress on behalf of Operation Smile, which benefits children overseas. Sources close to the singer told Reuters that she turned down the private meet-and-greet time with Bush at the National Republican Congressional Committee gala because Smile is a nonpartisan group.
"It just feels wrong," a source close to Simpson, 25, told Reuters Wednesday, adding that the singer/actress keeps her political views private. "She would love to meet the president and talk about Operation Smile ... but she can't do it at a fundraiser for the Republican Party."
NRCC spokesperson Carl Forti said he was surprised by Simpson's snub. "It's never been a problem for Bono," he said of the U2 singer, who regularly meets with politicians from every side of the fence in order to rally support for causes ranging from Third World debt relief to AIDS awareness. "I find it hard to believe she would pass up an opportunity to lobby the president on behalf of Operation Smile."
Simpson's publicists said she had never planned to attend the fundraiser, but Forti said the singer initially accepted the NRCC invitation on Tuesday night, only to change her mind the next evening, Reuters reports. The Republican group had even arranged for Simpson to sit with U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, at one of head tables at the $2,500-per-plate dinner, according to Forti. The event is expected to raise $7.5 million for Republican candidates in the congressional midterm elections in November.
A spokesperson for Simpson did not return calls seeking comment.
Amid a flurry of rumors that her marriage to now-estranged husband Nick Lachey was on the rocks, Simpson, her father/manager Joe and personal assistant CaCee Cobb visited Kenya without the former 98 Degrees singer in October to do charity work for Operation Smile. Simpson has performed on the charity's behalf at a Los Angeles gala in 2003 and a benefit concert that was aired as part of Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" in 2004.