Newspaper Reporter Held in Closet by Biden Staff
In an event that took place last Wednesday, Orlando Sentinel “pool reporter” (transcriber) Scott Powers found himself sequestered in a large closet or storage room in the mansion of millionaire Alan Ginsburg. Scott was there to cover a fundraising event for Senator Bill Nelson of Florida where Vice President Joe Biden was slated to speak. Biden’s staff did not want Scott to mingle with the guests while they waited for the Vice President to arrive, so a young staffer put him on time-out in the closet.
Powers told ABC News that he had to wait about an hour for Biden to arrive, and then he was allowed out to perform his journalistic duties. While waiting, he was shooed back inside every time he stuck his head out the door. He cleverly took a photo of the room and sent it to his editor at the Orlando Sentinel with the note, “sounds like a nice party.” After Biden spoke, he was again placed in the closet while he waited for Biden to leave the event.
“Scott – you have our sincere apologies for the lack of a better hold room today,” Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said in an apology letter to Powers.
Alexander’s apology note was not enough for Powers, and he might still be pissed, according to ABC News. His fire was fueled all the more in light of the fact that Ginsburg, the owner of the mansion, wrote him a more considerate letter explaining that he wasn’t even aware that Powers had been put in the closet and that it had been totally up to Biden staff.
According to a statement from the VP’s office,
It is standard policy for the Vice President’s office that a print pooler cover the speaking program at fundraisers. This has been the consistent policy throughout the Administration. At times, these fundraisers are at private homes and ‘hold rooms’ are provided for pool reporters to wait for the speaking program to commence. A hold room, however, should not be a storage room. This was the unfortunate mistake of an inexperienced staffer and the Vice President’s office has made sure it will never happen again.
It is unclear whether or not Powers is still smarting over the incident. According to Alexander, he accepted her “unequivocal apology.” But nonetheless, he noted that “it was frustrating and annoying that I was not given a chance to do my job fully and properly. This was an extreme, and extremely inappropriate way of handling the press…it was essentially a rude and uncomfortable way to treat a reporter.”
Update: Powers has publicly explained his personal feelings about the incident here. Powers e-mailed his editor the photo with the note because he was beginning to feel impatient and annoyed waiting there, and he also wanted to let his editor know why his report would be limited to Biden’s speech and nothing else. “He [Powers’ editor] wrote up an item and posted it, with the picture, on this blog. His post was a bit snarky. He likes snarky. So do I. I thought it was funny. The post and picture also ran in the Orlando Sentinel newspaper the next morning, along with my write-up of Biden’s speech. People told me they thought it was funny.” The overall tone of Powers’ post suggested that he wasn’t particularly upset, just annoyed and even amused.
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