Biden Team Apologizes to Reporter for Sticking Him In Closet

Mar 27, 2011 3:44pm

"Scott – You have our sincere apologies for the lack of a better hold room today," wrote Vice President Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander last Wednesday to Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers. "Lack of a better hold room" is an interesting way of putting it. In order to keep Powers from mingling with guests at a Democratic fundraiser last Wednesday, Powers was escorted into a storage closet by a Biden staffer.

Powers was the designated pool reporter, there to record the proceedings for the press corps in general. He told ABC News that he showed up at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday to cover Vice President Biden and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., attending a $500-a-head fundraiser at the Winter Park manse of developer Alan Ginsburg. A young female staffer met him at the door and brought him to the storage closet. "You're going to have to wait in here until the VP gets here," he says she told him. "You're kidding me," he recalls responding. Forcing reporters into closets is generally not the tradition of politicians in the US. Powers is a respected politics and business reporter who recently wrote about the Space shuttle Discovery coming home to Kennedy Space Center for the 39th and final time.  Making matters worse, Biden didn't arrive until more than an hour later. Continued Alexander in her email to Powers: "I am told, once the Vice President and Senator Nelson arrived, the situation was quickly rectified – and hopefully you weren’t waiting too long." Powers says the situation was never "rectified." Any time he stuck his head out he'd been shooed back inside. He said he was held for more than an hour in the closet, was allowed out for 35 minutes of remarks by Biden and Nelson, after which it was back into the closet until the VP left. Alexander's note to him thus didn't quite satisfy him, Powers said.  Especially compared with that of Ginsburg who called Powers Friday and apologized, saying Biden's advance team made all the decisions about the event, Powers said. The wealthy Democratic fundraiser told the reporter he hadn't even been aware that Powers was there, much less shoved into his closet. During his time in the closet Powers took a photo and emailed it to his editor, who posted it on the Sentinel blog. The photo ran in the paper the next day. A statement from the VP's office noted that "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." Biden's office added that in this particular occasion, "half of the hold room was used for storage by the home's owner and the other half was open space. A table and chair were set up for the reporter to allow him to file his story afterwards and work while he waited for the speaking program to begin. It was designated as the hold space because of its close proximity to the event room. The speaking program began approximately one hour after the reporter arrived, which he covered as the pool reporter, and he departed the home as soon as the motorcade left (about 15 mins after the speaking program ended)." Alexander's note to Powers ended: "Thank you for your patience and flexibility." It wasn't clear if Alexander was referring to Powers' emotional or physical flexibility. -Jake Tapper *This blog post has been updated with an editorial change of a comment made by Powers, upon his request.

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