The Washington Post

Facebook faux pas? Tweet gone sour? Hashtag #Blametheintern.

Somehow it always seems to be the intern’s fault.

Social media exposes public officials and organizations to deeper scrutiny. Every word is dissected, analyzed and critiqued. So when, particularly on Twitter, a message comes across as unseemly, unkind or just plain weird, there are public relations ramifications.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Look no further than Wednesday’s Twitter brouhaha between Amnesty International and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The D.C. think tank told the human rights group, which had representatives in Ferguson, Mo., to “suck it” in a tweet. Ouch.

After apologizing on and off Twitter, Andrew Schwartz , senior vice president of external relations at CSIS, told our colleagues that an intern sent the message.

“He meant to send something reflecting his personal views from his personal Twitter account,” Schwartz said.

Now why does that sound familiar?

Probably because often, when there is a Twitter faux pas, the culprit is the intern.

And in that spirit, the Loop has rounded up some of the best intern social-media slip-ups:

July 2014: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water posted a peculiar tweet about reaching C-list celebrity status in a Kim Kardashian smartphone game. The tweet prompted 88-year-old Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) to check in on the EPA to make sure it was okay and still focused on clean water.

Explanation: “An EPA fellow inadvertently triggered an auto-generated tweet,” an EPA spokeswoman said.

February 2014: Utah state Rep. Jacob Anderegg (R) joked on Twitter that he was changing his identity to be able to use the women’s bathroom because the men’s room was occupied. Utah state Senate President Wayne Niederhauser (R) responded on Twitter with a reference to Anderegg’s support for a gay rights anti-discrimination bill: “First supporting SB 100, now switching your gender identity? Just can’t keep up with you. You’re a new man! erm . . . woman. . .,” the tweet said.

Explanation: It was “an intern tweet.”

January 2012: It’s not just an American problem. A tweet from the Twitter account of a member of Britain’s Parliament said: “I should log out of my twitter so that my intern doesn’t twit-rape me.”

Explanation: An intern logged on to her boss’s account and tweeted it as a joke. She apologized.

June 2011: It was curious when the office account of then-Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), an opponent of gay marriage, retweeted a pro-gay message in response to a homophobic “joke” by comedian Tracy Morgan. West’s official account retweeted from the band the Scissor Sisters: “Dear Tracy Morgan’s son: if you are gay, you can TOTALLY come live with me. We’ll read James Baldwin & watch Paris is Burning. XxANA”

Explanation: “We were not hacked, an intern made an error,” West’s office tweeted. The intern was fired.

And, just for fun, here are some other Twitter flubs:

August 2014: The office account of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) retweeted a picture of raw chicken tenders strewn over a burning stovetop with the caption: “h--- yeah benihana up in this b---h.” It was quickly deleted.

Explanation: A staffer (not an intern!) retweeted it by mistake.

November 2013: The National Republican Senatorial Committee tweeted an article with a picture of Allison Lundergan Grimes’s face on the body of “Obama Girl,” the woman who made viral videos about her crush on Barack Obama in 2007. The tweet asked whether Grimes was the new “Obama Girl.”

Explanation: The NRSC called the tweet offensive and said it was done by a “junior staffer.”

From our archives:

●December 2008: It wasn’t Twitter and he wasn’t an intern, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention an old scoop we had when Obama campaign speechwriter Jon Favreau was photographed cupping the chest of a Hillary Clinton cardboard cutout. It was then posted on Facebook and sent to us.

Explanation: Favreau apologized to Clinton, who took it in stride. Her spokesman said Clinton, who had already been nominated to be secretary of state, was reviewing his application.

A petition on Ferguson

A White House petition created days after 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., surpassed 100,000 signatures, the threshold that now requires the Obama administration to respond.

Posted to the White House’s “We the People” page, the petition calls for all “state, county and local” police to wear cameras. The creator, “J.C” from Hephzibah, Ga., called it the “Mike Brown Law.”

The petition cleared 100,000 signers on Tuesday, and as of Wednesday afternoon it had 130,599 signatures.

Since the Aug. 9 shooting of the unarmed teenager, there have been widespread calls for police to wear cameras on their vests. If Officer Darren Wilson had been wearing one when he shot Brown, questions about how the shooting unfolded might have been answered.

Ferguson police said Tuesday in a statement that the department would raise money to purchase cameras for police vests and for police cruiser dashboards.

President Obama has been cautious so far in his comments about the Brown shooting and the resulting protests and riots that have rocked Ferguson since then. “When they’re conducting an investigation, I’ve got to make sure that I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other,” Obama said Monday.

An administration official told the Loop in an e-mail that the White House would respond to the Michael Brown petition, but did not offer a time frame.

“Every petition that crosses the threshold is reviewed by the appropriate staff and receives a response,” the official wrote.

Other petitions with more than 100,000 signatures awaiting an administration response include: “Pardon Edward Snowden , “Declare Muslim Brotherhood organization as a terrorist group” and “Condemn the Apartheid State of Israel for their Human Rights Violations against the Palestinian peoples.”

— With Colby Itkowitz

Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz

Colby Itkowitz is the lead anchor of the Inspired Life blog. She previously covered the quirks of national politics and the federal government.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
Republicans debate tonight. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
He says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything in the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.