First Lady LAURA BUSH stunned organisers at last night's (23AUG04) grand opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati by refusing to appear alongside rapper SEAN 'P DIDDY' COMBS.

Bush - wife of American President GEORGE W BUSH - was scheduled to join actress Angela Bassett and U2 frontman Bono at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, but snubbed the event to prevent photographers snapping her with hip-hop mogul Combs.

Insiders claim Bush was eager to avoid publicity with Combs - who subsequently axed his appearance at the event after news of the First Lady's decision broke - because of his notorious background.

A source tells New York website PAGESIX.COM, "Her reps made it very clear to Freedom Center that they would not have Laura Bush appearing in the same photo-op as P Diddy.

"I'm not really sure why they didn't want her to pose with him, but maybe it has something to do with his scandalous past. For whatever the reason, Laura Bush's people did not want her photo taken with him."

And staff at the centre were further infuriated when Combs pulled out of the ceremony.

A spokesman says, "I am not privy to why he's not coming. We are very disappointed."

The hip-hop star blamed "an unexpected personal obligation" on his no-show.

24/08/2004 17:14