Joe Biden has issued an apology through his press secretary following an ugly incident in which a credentialed journalism student was rousted to surrender photos he had taken of the Vice President at a domestic violence speaking engagement in Rockville, Md.
Jeremy Barr, a student journalist attending the Tuesday event, was there on behalf of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, covering featured speakers including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Biden.
Barr was reporting for the university’s award-winning, student-run Capital News Service; and he had received full clearance to cover the talks.
But after Barr (along with others in the general audience) took some iPhone pictures, Biden staffer Dana Rosenzweig confronted him and began putting the clamps down.
Barr had sat inadvertently in an area of the venue not designated for the press, although he observed that there was no obvious demarcation separating regular guests from those there to cover the event. At any rate, it was one of the staffers who directed the badge-wearing journalist to take his seat among the general audience in the first place. Also, the law allows anyone — regular citizens or members of the press — to take pictures of government leaders in public.
[The staffer] asked, “Did you take any photos during the event?” Barr said. He told the staffer, yes, he had taken a few photos.
She said, “I need to see your camera right now.” Barr said. The staffer called Barr’s presence in the non-press area an “unfair advantage” over the other members of the media at the event.
The staffer then requested to watch as Barr deleted the photos from his camera to ensure his compliance, Barr said.
After deleting the photos from the camera, the staffer asked Barr to show her his iPhone to make sure no photos were saved. Barr complied.
“I assumed that I’d violated a protocol,” Barr said. “I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she was following proper procedures.”
Barr was then asked to wait while the staffer contacted her supervisor. After approximately 10 minutes of waiting, the staffer made contact with her supervisor, apologized to Barr for the delay and permitted him to leave the venue.
Journalism School Dean Lucy Daglish went full Doberman in a letter to Biden’s press secretary that same day, saying Rosenzweig’s behavior was “pure intimidation” and a violation of every citizen’s 1st Amendment principles — one that wouldn’t have been out of place in a “third-world country where police-state style media censorship is expected.”
Biden press secretary Kendra Barkoff refused an interview with Capital News Service, but phoned both Daglish and Barr separately to apologize after Daglish filed a formal complaint.
Barr told the university newspaper he was glad the matter had been resolved. Daglish noted Barr has a right, under the law, to sue if he chooses.
“This was pure intimidation,” Dalglish said, adding that “it’s clear from the circumstance that the journalist did nothing wrong.”