Video by Leah Villanueva and Haley Bull
Vice President Joe Biden’s press secretary apologized to a Capital News Service reporter and the Philip Merrill College of Journalism Wednesday after a press office staffer demanded the reporter delete photos taken at an event in Rockville.
The reporter, a credentialed member of the press who is a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, was covering a domestic violence event featuring Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin.
The apology came shortly after a formal complaint was filed with the Vice President’s press office by Lucy A. Dalglish, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Capital News Service is a student-staffed news service operated by the college. (Read Dalglish’s letter)
“This was pure intimidation,” Dalglish said, adding that “it’s clear from the circumstance that the journalist did nothing wrong.”
Biden Press Secretary Kendra Barkoff would not speak on the record with Capital News Service. A message left for Dana Rosenzweig, the staffer who asked that the photos be deleted, was not returned.
Dalglish said Barkoff apologized to her and Capital News Service reporter Jeremy Barr in separate phone conversations.
Dalglish said Barkoff told her the incident was a “total miscommunication” and stressed that it is never the press office’s policy to request that reporters delete photos.
Barr said he unknowingly sat in a section of the crowd designated as a non-press area.
“I didn’t see any demarcation that would have designated a press entrance versus a general entrance,” Barr said.
“The event began and I took a few photos of each speaker,” Barr said. “People a few rows in front of me were also taking photos.”
After the event was over, Barr was questioned.
“(The staffer) asked, ‘Did you take any photos during the event?’” Barr said. He told the staffer, yes, he had taken a few photos.
“She said, ‘I need to see your camera right now.’” Barr said. The staffer called Barr’s presence in the non-press area an “unfair advantage” over the other members of the media at the event.
The staffer then requested to watch as Barr deleted the photos from his camera to ensure his compliance, Barr said.
After deleting the photos from the camera, the staffer asked Barr to show her his iPhone to make sure no photos were saved. Barr complied.
“I assumed that I’d violated a protocol,” Barr said. “I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she was following proper procedures.”
Barr was then asked to wait while the staffer contacted her supervisor. After approximately 10 minutes of waiting, the staffer made contact with her supervisor, apologized to Barr for the delay and permitted him to leave the venue.
Adrianne Flynn, a professor at the college and Barr’s editor in the Washington bureau of Capital News Service, called the incident a “clear violation of the First Amendment.”
“This is uncalled for and completely wrong,” Flynn said.
Barr said he was relieved it was over.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened but I’m glad it was resolved,” Barr said.
While an apology goes “a long way to remedying the situation” Barr has the “right under the law to sue,” Dalglish said.