The Washington Post

Biden’s office apologizes to student reporter for ‘unfortunate mistake’

The office of Vice President Biden has apologized to a University of Maryland student after a member of Biden's staff confronted the college reporter and forced him to delete photos of an event.

Capital News Service reporter Jeremy Barr was covering Biden's announcement of a new domestic violence initiative, he told Capital News Service, a student news service run by the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.* He accidentally sat in a section of the audience not meant for the media. He had identified himself as a member of the press upon entry and been directed to that area. Barr took a few pictures of Biden at the podium. After the event, a staffer for Biden confronted him and demanded to watch as he deleted the pictures from his camera.

“I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she was following proper procedures,” Barr told Patch. But Lucy Dalglish, dean of the University of Maryland's journalism school, filed a formal complaint with the vice president's office.

"It is our policy that all of our open press events are open press even if a reporter is not in the designated press area," Biden spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff told The Washington Post. "This was an unfortunate mistake by a staffer who does not regularly interact with the press. Once we learned about it, I immediately apologized to the Dean of the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, the reporter involved and to the newspaper. It will never happen again."

Dalglish, a former media lawyer, called the staffer's behavior "clearly illegal." But she was impressed that the vice president's press secretary called to apologize within five minutes of her complaint.

"Somebody really screwed up," she told The Post. "The vice president's office probably knows that it's illegal and certainly knows that it was a stupid thing to do."

There have been dust-ups between Biden and the media before. His staff apologized for making a pool reporter wait in a closet during a Democratic fundraiser. In 2011, Biden's office raised concerns with a Senate official about whether a conservative reporter misrepresented himself in a crowded Capitol Hill hallway. And during the 2012 campaign, an Ohio reporter tweeted that he was barred from talking to attendees at a Biden event; Biden's staff said it was a miscommunication.

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* This post initially referred to the Capital News Service as a University of Maryland student paper. It is a student-powered news organization run by the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, separate from the University of Maryland's daily paper, The Diamondback.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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