09/09/2004 at 03:00 PM EDT
Sharon Bush, the ex-wife of President Bush's brother Neil, is denying a much-circulated story that she told author Kitty Kelley that George W. Bush used drugs when his father was in office.
The Washington Post, which helped get the Sharon Bush story rolling in the first place, published her statement saying: "I categorically deny that I ever told Kitty Kelley that George W. Bush used cocaine at Camp David or that I ever saw him use cocaine at Camp David. When Kitty Kelley raised drug use at Camp David, I responded by saying something along the lines of, 'Who would say such a thing?'"
Sharon, who went through a bitter divorce from her husband, goes on to say: "Although there have been tensions between me and various members of the Bush family, I cannot allow this falsehood to go unchallenged."
Doubleday, which will publish Kelley's The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty next Tuesday, says the book was carefully vetted. The company said in a statement: "Doubleday stands fully behind the accuracy of Ms. Kelley's reporting and believes that everything she attributes to Sharon Bush in her book is an accurate account of their discussions."
Associate publisher Suzanne Herz tells the Post: "Ms. Kelley met with Sharon Bush over the course of a four-hour lunch on April 1, 2003, at the Chelsea Bistro in Manhattan."
On April 2, Herz says, Kelley and Sharon Bush shared a 90-minute phone conversation in the presence of Peter Gethers, the author's editor – who confirmed the accuracy of the Doubleday statement. Sharon Bush's Texas-based lawyer, David Berg, claims his client met Kelley only for the purpose of being connected to a speakers' bureau.
Herz also said that Kelley "has notes to corroborate both these conversations," and that Bush "understood that anything she said could be used for publication." A public-relations adviser to Sharon Bush, Lou Colasuonno, was also present when Bush spoke over lunch to Kelley, and confirmed to The Post the accuracy of Kelley's reporting.