This Is No Place to Break the Rules

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, July 12, 2007

After 22 years covering the White House, NBC's Steve Handelsman thought he knew the ins and outs of the West Wing. But a misstep -- actually, about 10 steps -- resulted in an unusual suspension of his press pass for three weeks.

Handelsman, the senior Washington correspondent for network affiliates, sought a tour for two NBC execs visiting D.C. on June 5. Nothing unusual about the request: One perk for staff and correspondents at 1600 Pennsylvania is behind-the-scenes peeks for family and friends. Handelsman was offered a full tour for that night, but was going to a charity dinner and declined.

On the day of June 5, the execs and an NBC intern were cleared to enter the White House, where they watched Handelsman broadcast live from the lawn, then accompanied him to the almost-finished new briefing room and upper press office. While standing near press sec Tony Snow's office, they caught the eye of the Secret Service officer guarding the Oval Office, who indicated they could come down the hall, where they chatted and stared into the empty office (President Bush was in Prague) for less than a minute.

Beware, unsuspecting gawkers! Turns out those few crucial steps are considered a no-press zone, although Handelsman (and plenty of others) has walked it many times since the Reagan administration. Another Secret Service officer spotted the group and filed a report; the tour was deemed "unauthorized," resulting in the suspension for Handelsman, whose pass was reinstated Monday.

Now that everything is back to normal -- Handelsman was at the refurbished press pen yesterday -- both he and the White House declined to comment about the incident. Said deputy press sec Dana Perino: "Glad to have him back."


Sellers: Duncan and Adelaide Whitaker

Price: $4.5 million

Details: The owners have dropped $250,000 off the former Wesley Heights home of Richard Nixon, which was first listed nine months ago. Before the feds provided an official residence for the vice president, Nixon paid $75,000 for the 9,000-square-foot, eight-bedroom, 6 1/2 -bath English Tudor that he, Pat, Julie, Tricia and Checkers lived in from 1957 to 1961. Still too pricey? Gerald Ford's four-bedroom, two-bath house in Alexandria is still for sale -- reduced more than $100K to $899,000.


· Still together: Rep. Charlie Rangel and his wife of 41 years, Alma, according to the Manhattan Democrat, who lashed out yesterday at tabloid claims that they have separated. The Ways and Means chair angrily told us yesterday that neither of them has gone anywhere. "I've got five public officials living on my street, I've got a doorman, I've got a telephone number that's listed -- anyone can check this. It's something that's just made up. I'll give $1,000 to anyone who can show we've been apart. . . . If I did separate, it would be public."


"I'm not changing anything. I've had enough dressing like this, thank you very much."

-- Queen Elizabeth II as she stormed off from an official photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz after the celeb photographer tried to suggest that she pose without her crown, a royal tantrum captured in a new BBC documentary. Why, Your Majesty!

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