Biden Team Apologizes For Using Storage Closet As Holding Room For Reporter

March 28, 2011 6:00 a.m.

Joe Biden’s spokeswoman sent an apology note to Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers for using a storage closet as a holding area at a recent event in Florida.

The incident got a lot of attention over the weekend after a picture Powers took of the storage closet was posted on the Sentinel’s website and made the print edition. Powers himself described yesterday how overblown rumors were swirling around the blogosphere that he had been “kidnapped and held hostage in a locked closet by the vice president’s staff. “Powers was covering an event at Allen Ginsburg’s home last Wednesday, which Biden and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) were scheduled to attend. When he got there he was told he couldn’t talk to party attendees, and had to wait in a room until Biden and Nelson got there. “I went in willingly,” Powers wrote about the incident on his blog, “with the understanding that I was free to leave — but if I left I’d probably have to leave the house entirely, and not get to cover the speeches.”

Powers described the room:

I called it a closet, because it was stuffed with shelves, boxes, baskets and other items in storage, and it felt like a closet. The vice president’s office called it a room used for storage. It had a light, a window somewhere in the back behind the shelves full of boxes, and a few square feet of open space in the front. They set up a small table and a chair for me. They offered me food, which I declined, and brought me a bottle of water. They closed the door. I sat to wait, mistakenly thinking it would be only a few minutes. The door wasn’t locked, though every time I opened it and stepped out to see what was going on a staffer told me I couldn’t come out yet. He’d let me know.

He waited for more than an hour, during which he took a picture of the room and sent it to his editor Bob Shaw at the Sentinel, who then posted it on the paper’s website. Shaw wrote “the life of a political reporter isn’t all champagne and canapes.” He added: “To prevent Scott from mingling with the crowd, a member of Biden’s advance team consigned him to a storage closet — and then stood outside the door to make sure he didn’t walk out without permission.” You can see the picture here.

The same day, Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander sent Powers an apology, saying “Scott – You have our sincere apologies for the lack of a better hold room today.”

In a statement, Jake Tapper of ABC News reported yesterday, Biden’s office explained that at events like these, “‘hold rooms are provided for pool reporters to wait for the speaking program to commence. A hold room, however, should not be a storage room. This was the unfortunate mistake of an inexperienced staffer and the Vice President’s office has made sure it will never happen again.”

The story was picked up by a number of websites and blogs, including the Drudge Report, which contacted Powers for an interview. Afterward the story got even bigger, and Powers wrote that “bloggers around the country, it seems, had determined that either we had published a story on-line luridly detailing the alleged kidnapping, then later removed it, or we chose to not write about it at all. Either way, we were shilling for Biden and the Democrats.”

He added: “But I discovered that whatever I said was irrelevant to other bloggers and posters who concluded that I was spin-controlling, continuing the cover-up. Some called me a liar and worse. But the real vile was naturally aimed at Biden.”

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