Vice President Joe Biden had an on-the-record conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon about an upcoming vote in the U.S. Senate about tax cuts. The only problem? Twitter-hungry reporters couldn't tweet about the call until after it was over.
The fact that the White House had embargoed the information until the conference call was over flashed across the Internet early on Tuesday, and many suggested it was because the White House was worried about quotes being taken out of context. The White House has been sensitive about the topic in recent days, ever since Mitt Romney and other Republicans jumped on President Barack Obama for saying, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.” The moment has become ammunition for attack ads, but the Obama camp said it was taken out of context.
However, a press embargo from the White House is nothing new. Whenever the president or other White House official makes a major speech, the text is usually sent to media outlets in advance. Newspapers and news outlets across the country get the emails, and it is usually accompanied with a note that says “embargoed until delivery.” The embargo is considered part of a “gentleman’s agreement” between the White House and the press, although at times it has been broken. When it is broken, there isn't much the White House can do except restrict access for the reporter or organization that disregarded the embargo.
Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for an embargo, however, including when to report that the President is visiting a war zone. This particular embargo however had less to do with security and more to do with staying on message – something the White House fully admitted to Politico.
"The embargo will allow journalists to hear the entirety of the Vice President’s remarks and get the benefit of having their questions answered -- before trying to condense a 30-minute conference call about a 20-page NEC [National Economic Council] report into a 140 characters,” press secretary Josh Earnest wrote in an email.
Although people across the Internet took notice of the embargo on Tuesday, it seems like something that will become common practice in the future, especially with things like Twitter, for better or worse.
Regardless, reporters like Fox News' Ed Henry were happy when it was all over.
Photo via White House Flickr