Vice President Joe Biden’s office is none too pleased with a tricky reporter ambush of him that got ugly and went viral last week.
Biden, never one to shy away from reporters even after a career of headline-making gaffes and wisecracks, is drawing the line. Biden’s office has complained to the Senate press gallery about a confrontation he had with a conservative reporter, The Hill reports.
The vice president’s aides want to know whether Jason Mattera, a reporter for Human Events, a conservative magazine, broke any Senate rules governing reporter’s behavior when he pretended to simply want a friendly photo but ruffled Biden by asking a pointed question during the grip and grin.
After a rally with Democratic leaders for a portion of the President’s job plan that aimed to provide more funds for teachers and first responders, Matteras positioned himself through the vice president’s entourage to shake Biden’s hand and ask for a photo. In the middle of the brief encounter, Mattera asked him if he felt “regret using a rape reference to describe Republican opposition to the President’s bill.”
“I didn’t use — no, no, no,” Biden said, visibly angry and shaking his finger at the reporter. “What I said — let’s get it straight, guy, don’t screw around with me. Let’s get it straight.
“I said rape was up three times in Flint, [Mich.]. There are the numbers. Go look at the numbers. Murder’s up, rape is up and burglary’s up. That’s exactly what I said,” Biden added.
Biden eventually stood by his argument that if Republicans continue to block the Democratic jobs bill, “murder will continue to rise, rape will continue to rise, all crimes will continue to rise.”
The Washington Post‘s fact-checker over the weekend gave the vice president “four Pinocchios” for the argument, writing that he “should know better than to spout off half-baked facts in service of a dubious argument.”
The comments, caught on video were all over the Internet after the Drudge Report ran a story, and CNN aired the comments the same afternoon.
Mattera, who has said he specializes in ambush interviews, told The Hil he did nothing wrong by using a pretext to get Biden to stop and talk to him.
“ABC and CBS have done undercover sting operations and have done them for decades. The fact that a conservative publication goes after a public official who was misrepresenting himself and a Senate bill to the public and tries to get an answer from him, that’s great,” he said in an interview Monday.
“The media should take notice that this is how you ask a question. If I had said, ‘Hey, Mr. Vice President, a question regarding your rape comments,’ he would shrug it off.
“He’s not going to take questions hostile to his agenda. I want to get him in that honest moment when he doesn’t have his talking points and isn’t prepared to spin,” Mattera added.
Mattera said his technique is “premised on looking to get the most honest reaction from politicians used to conning the media daily — and even their constituents.”
“You shouldn’t play patty-cake with politicians to gain access,” he said.
But the Senate Standing Committee for Correspondents can take serious exception to any unconventional reporting conduct that could jeopardize access to lawmakers in the Capitol.
Heather Rothman, who chairs the gallery’s standing committee, said the matter is under review.