Maybe Joe Biden should stop consulting Frank Lautenberg on media access. A second reporter has claimed to been banished to a confined area while covering one of Biden’s fundraisers a pool reporter, while the first reporter tried to put the story in context:
In March 2010, Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton was on duty to cover a Biden fundraiser in Maryland, and was forced to wait for an hour in what he jokingly called a “cage” that was guarded by the vice president’s staff.
“Your pool reporter awaited the beginning of the event by sitting in a 5-by-8 foot, Asian-themed room with mirrors on the walls and family photos in small frames,” Fenton wrote in his pool report during a fundraiser hosted by David S. Cordish, a Baltimore-based real estate developer. “Cordish three times brought guests, including VPOTUS, into the room to show off a collection of books about opera singer Rosa Ponselle.”
Fenton highlighted his experience in a post on Twitter Sunday night, after Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers sent pictures to the Drudge Report from a storage closet he was forced to work from during a Biden fundraiser for Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
For his part, Powers says that his “kidnapping” was blown out of proportion:
The Drudge Report popped the story big on Saturday, headline blaring: “REPORTER TRAPPED IN A CLOSET.” The Daily Mail picked up the story, as did Pajamas Media and several other right-leaning blogs. In some accounts, Powers and his editors at the Sentinel became part of an effort to cover up and spin the time he spent in dire conditions.
Powers, for his part, said the whole story has been blown out of proportion and that the accounts alleging he is trying to protect Biden and his staff are “news to me too.”
Rather, he said, the whole experience was kind of funny to him, a part of doing his job. …
The editor quipped that the room was Powers’s “temporary prison” and, while “[n]ot looking for sympathy here, the life of a political reporter isn’t all champagne and canapes.”
The blog item, Powers said, was intended to be “a bit snarky” and some readers let him know that they found it “funny.”
With two data points, it’s hard to argue that the holding room was a one-time error, but it’s also not a prison or a kidnapping, either. Politicians of all stripes know that donors may not be particularly enthusiastic to attend functions where the press can report on their conversations. On the other hand, they need press coverage of their speeches to generate more interest in the next fundraiser, so they don’t necessarily want to bar the media from the events altogether. Voila — the “holding room” concept allows them to eat their cake and have it, too.
As silly as these incidents are, it does prompt some questions. Some asked in the wake of Powers’ blog post why he didn’t leave in a righteous huff and write about his experiences immediately. Obviously, Powers hoped to get a good story, a tidbit of reporting that would generate some headlines, as do all reporters at all political events. (He got them, too, although not the ones he was expecting.) Also, I’m pretty sure that getting treated rudely by staffers isn’t exactly a stunningly singular experience for Powers or other political reporters.
The bigger question should be why Biden and his team enforce the holding-room concept after running for office on promises of transparency. Even at fundraisers — maybe especially at fundraisers — a politician’s conduct should be transparent and the promises he makes public for all to judge. It took a blogger armed with a cell phone to expose Barack Obama’s “bitter, clinging” diatribe in 2008. Biden and his team seem determined to avoid another such incident, but it would be better to know that he’s not saying things like that at all to donors than to shroud those conversations in a Cone of Silence.
Biden isn’t kidnapping reporters, but he is reneging on his promise of transparency. That’s the real story from these incidents.
Update: If you want to know what really happened at the fundraiser, Next Media Animation has it figured out: