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First Lady looks to reality TV to repair White House image

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Los Angeles (dpa) - U.S. first lady Laura Bush is to star in an episode of the hit reality TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition", where she will help rebuild homes in hurricane-ravaged Mississippi in a bid to repair the White House's ailing reputation, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

The White House contacted producers of the popular series, which runs on the Disney-owned ABC network, asking for an opportunity to include the president's wife, the report said.

The show attracts some 16 million U.S. viewers in a prime-time Sunday night spot just before the saucy drama "Desperate Housewives".

Usually the show finds down-on-their-luck families to send away on vacation and completely remodels their house during their absence. In the special edition that Bush will appear in, the show's commercial sponsors will send truckloads of equipment to hurricane victims living in shelters. Workers hired by the show will then help rebuild the houses and install the new furniture and appliances.

The report said that it was unclear at this point what the first lady would actually do on the show, which is due to air in November.

"I think we say, 'Mrs. Bush, the stuff is over here, the people are over there, could you grab the other end of that mattress?'," said the show's executive producer, Tom Forman. Press secretary Susan Whitson envisioned something closer to handing out clothing and thanking volunteers, according to the paper.

The public relations stunt comes as President George W. Bush faces a slump in approval ratings after mishandling federal response to the Katrina hurricane, which compounded dissatisfaction over the course of the war in Iraq, high gas prices and anaemic job growth.

Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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