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Columba Bush says she's ashamed about run-in with U.S. Customs

Thursday, July 29, 1999

By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press

ORLANDO - Florida's first lady said Wednesday she was ashamed about failing to declare $19,000 worth of clothes and jewelry she purchased on a Paris shopping spree last month.

"The embarrassment I brought on myself made me ashamed to face my family and friends," Columba Bush said in her first public appearance since her run-in with U.S. Customs officials in Atlanta.

Florida's first lady, Columba Bush, addresses the 1999 Kids for Wish Kids luncheon sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Orlando Wednesday. Bush told reporters she was ashamed about failing to declare $19,000 worth of clothes andjewelry she purchased on a shopping spree last month. Peter Cosgrove / AP

Mrs. Bush was fined $4,100 and became the butt of jokes by Jay Leno and others after the incident made headlines across the nation.

Speaking at a luncheon for the Central Florida Make-A-Wish-Foundation, Mrs. Bush apologized for what she called "an awful mistake."

Mrs. Bush said she now realizes the responsibility that comes with being married to Gov. Jeb Bush.

"I am by nature a very private person, some might even call me shy," she said. "I did not ask to join a famous family, simply to marry a man that I loved. But with that decision came a responsibility beyond anything that I could imagine and my recent actions made that painfully apparent."

Mrs. Bush paid the duty and fines with a personal check after she landed in Atlanta on her return from Paris to Tallahassee.

International travelers do not have to pay duties on foreign purchases that total less than $400. Mrs. Bush declared only $500 worth of merchandise.

Mrs. Bush told reporters the governor has helped her through the public criticism following the incident.

"Jeb has been wonderful. He has been very supportive, very loving and he says 'C'mon, we have to keep on going,'" she said.

Mrs. Bush wouldn't elaborate on what she purchased nor did she offer an explanation for why she failed to declare the merchandise.

"It's an accident and I regret it with all my heart," she said.


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