Recently, I felt Vice President Joe Biden was unfairly quoted in a speech that he gave at the University of Maryland on domestic violence. I am less supportive however about what followed the speech. A Biden aide proceeded to threaten a student journalist about taking pictures of Biden and Dana Rosenzweig proceeded to demand that the student delete his pictures and show her his cellphone. While the Biden office has apologized to the university, it is unclear why this staffer still has a job after such a thuggish confrontation with a journalist. It is doubtful that she would have done this with someone from USA Today or the New York Times. The Biden staff have been accused of limiting press and interviews due to the Vice President’s reputation as a perpetual gaffe-machine in public comments.
Jeremy Barr is a credentialed student journalist from the respected Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. He had been snapping pictures of Biden and suddenly found himself facing an irate Rosenzweig. She reportedly demanded “Did you take any photos during the event . . . I need to see your camera right now.” She then made him delete his photos and to show her his iPhone to confirm he did not save any of the photos. Barr complied and neither Biden’s Press Secretary Kendra Barkoff not Rosenzweig would speak on the record after the confrontation.
It was not until a formal complaint was lodged by the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism’s dean, Lucy A. Dalglish that Biden’s office responded. Dalglish rightfully called the incident “pure intimidation.”
Barkoff later insisted to Dalglish (still not making any public comment) that the incident was a “total miscommunication.” Miscommunication? A miscommunication is sending press to the wrong bus. Forcing the deletion of photos and search a journalist’s iPhone is a bit more than a miscommunication. It is an act of intimidation and abuse. So why is there no confirmation of Rosenzweig being disciplined? Even if this reporter was sitting in the non-press section, he identified himself. Moreover, I would be equally upset with citizens being treated in this fashion.
Biden’s staff has previously been criticized for their efforts to protect him from the media, like locking a reporter in a storage room.
Frankly, I am bothered by any politicians banning photos and recording of public speeches. This also includes justices like Scalia who use federal marshals against citizens and reporters.