Brief of the Week May 18, 2009

WHEN BRIEFINGS START LATE, CELLPHONES START RINGING: The intense White House press briefing last week on the administration’s decision not to release photos of enhanced interrogation techniques got some unexpected levity when cell phones started to go off in the briefing room. When the phone of HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi went off twice, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suddenly stepped down from the podium and told Gizzi, “Give me the phone.” Gizzi complied and, amid laughter from the White House correspondents Gibbs then tossed the phone to an aide in the backroom of the office. Within seconds, the phone of veteran CBS-TV correspondent Bill Plante went off as well. “You too?” said Gibbs, starting for Plante’s phone as laughter broke out again. But Plante moved too fast and stepped outside, returning five minutes later. (“Did I miss anything?” he asked his laughing colleagues.). A third phone then went off in the briefing room, but its owner avoided being identified. After the briefing, colleagues had fun teasing Gizzi, offering to lend him spare phones, while Japanese political correspondent Hiroyuki Takahashi asked him: “Does this happen often in White House briefings?” What few in the media who reported the story noted was that Gibbs twice put off the announced start of the briefing and finally began it an hour after it was intended to start. Because the reporters were out of touch for so long, they were bound to get calls. Gizzi’s editor called looking for some needed copy and Plante finally was hearing from a source he needed to talk to. (For the many who called to inquire, yes, Gibbs good-naturedly returned Gizzi’s cell phone after the briefing.)