IT TURNS OUT that Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum's 3-year-old daughter, Bella, was not at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, as his campaign website announced Saturday.
Aaah, what a waste of time as reporters, photographers and TV camera crews hung outside CHOP on Saturday and Sunday, hoping for a statement from the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania about his youngest daughter's health.
It would have helped if Santorum spokesman Matt Beynon had returned emails from the Daily News or cleared his voice-mail box, which was full and could not accept messages Sunday and yesterday.
The Daily News ultimately reached another Santorum spokesman, Hogan Gidley, yesterday. He confirmed that Isabella "Bella" Santorum was not admitted to CHOP Saturday, but instead was in a hospital in Virginia, where Santorum has a home.
But Gidley would not disclose which hospital. He said the mixup about hospitals "might have been a miscommunication among our staff."
He said yesterday that the Santorums "were heading to Philadelphia" on Saturday and that "they were going to CHOP." But on Sunday, when he spoke with Santorum, the presidential candidate said "they were in Virginia," Gidley said.
When asked why Santorum hadn't driven all the way to Philadelphia, Gidley said: "Usually, they go to CHOP for something. Maybe they just didn't have enough gas. I don't know."
Because of Bella's need to be hospitalized - Santorum told Florida Republican voters in a telephone call Sunday night that she had gotten pneumonia - he canceled his appearance at a Miami church on Sunday. His oldest daughter, Elizabeth, 20, appeared on his behalf at other Florida campaign stops.
Santorum has been trailing far behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in today's critical Florida primary. Yesterday, instead of heading to Florida, Santorum went to the Midwest - speaking in Missouri in the afternoon. He was scheduled to speak in Minnesota later in the day. Both states have their contests next week.
Bella, by the way, reportedly is doing better. She has a genetic condition called Trisomy 18, caused by the presence of all or part of an 18th chromosome.
Meanwhile, CHOP spokeswoman Rachel Salis-Silverman told the Daily News yesterday that she could not disclose whether a patient is at the hospital without a family's consent, saying it would go against federal privacy laws and CHOP policy.