(Refiles to fix typographical error in 7th paragraph)
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES, Feb 11 (Reuters) - California’s octuplets mom, already jobless and receiving food stamps, has gone into hiding with her six older children because of death threats, her spokesman said on Wednesday.
Nadya Suleman, 33, has come under mounting public ridicule for expanding her already large family via fertility treatments that led to the Jan. 26 birth of six boys and two girls at a Los Angeles-area hospital.
That criticism has mushroomed as it was reported that she was divorced, living with her parents, unemployed for several years, receiving disability checks for three of her children — one of whom is autistic — and collecting nearly $500 a month in food stamps.
She acknowledged those circumstances in a series of NBC television interviews but insisted in a segment aired on Tuesday on “Dateline NBC” that she was “not living off any taxpayer money” and that assistance she now receives is temporary.
The broadcast drew the highest “Dateline” ratings since a 2007 interview with Britain’s Prince William and Prince Harry.
Suleman, who was working toward an advanced degree in counseling, said she owes close to $50,000 in student loans, which also are her sole source of non-government income.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Kaiser Permanente hospital where the newborns remain is seeking reimbursement for the cost of their care from Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for the poor. Those costs are expected to reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the newspaper said.
For the past few days, Suleman and her six older children, ages 2 to 7, have moved into “what we are referring to as an undisclosed location,” said Michael Furtney, a public relations consultant working for the family. The Web site RadarOnline.com reported the family was staying at a hotel.
Furtney said Suleman and the PR firm have been deluged with hostile telephone and email messages in recent days, some of them containing threats of violence and death.
“The bulk of them just rail against her being, as they would refer to her, as a person who’s taking advantage of the system, and they just go from there,” Furtney said.
He also acknowledged that the hostile messages have so far outnumbered the well-wishes, but added, “the positive notes are beginning to catch up with the not so positive ones.”
Some have been directed to a new Suleman family Web site that solicits private donations to help support them.
The site is adorned with photos of the mother and her eight newborns, along with images of a baby bottle, a pacifier, a rainbow and alphabet blocks spelling out the word “love.”
Below the greeting, “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts — Nadya Suleman and children,” are heart-shaped links that invite visitors to comment and to make a contribution.
Furtney said people have primarily been offering furniture, clothing, food and other essentials, and someone even promised to donate breast milk. He said one Indiana farmer has offered to have the whole family live with him and his family.
He said “volunteers” were paying for her temporary living arrangements.
Suleman might temporarily move back into her mother’s three-bedroom house in a Los Angeles suburb, but that house will likely prove too small for all 14 children, Furtney said.
Suleman’s mother, Angela, has called her daughter’s decision to keep expanding her family “unconscionable” and she said she had pleaded with her daughter’s fertility doctor not to implant her with more embryos. (Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Osterman)