Mystery No Longer!

Obama’s backgrounders come forward

The Pennsylvania primary, as has been widely lamented at this point, left many a lingering question in the minds of the media. What can its exit polls tell us about the upcoming primary battles? Which metric is the most valid measure of a candidate’s political viability? And when, oh when, will it all end? But there was one question that particularly nagged—one mystery that transcended the others—one enigma that, more than any other, captured the imagination of the press and the public alike:

What was the deal with those Abercrombie dudes?

You know the ones. The threesome of young-ish guys (“the young men,” the Times kept calling them in its funnily formal write-up) standing directly behind Obama as he gave his concession speech in Indiana on Tuesday night. The guys who kept getting distracted from the speech by, from the looks of things: their cell phones, the signs they were holding, other audience members, each other, their shoes. The guys who were all three decked out in t-shirts emblazoned with the logo of everyone’s favorite casual-luxury lifestyle brand.

Where did they come from? Why were they there? Were they Corporate Plants, human versions of Idol’s Coke cups? Or were they simply Obama fans who happen also to share the prepster-meets-hipster mentality that A&F embodies so well?

There’s been much speculation—everywhere from The New York Times, which interviewed A&F spokesman Tom Lennox about the alleged logo-plant, to The Colbert Report—accompanied by, alas, a frustrating lack of resolution to the questions. But just when it looked like The Dudes were destined to join Hoffa’s disappearance and the identity of the second gunman in the Annals of Unsolved Mysteries…CNN’s American Morning came to the rescue. They tracked down the elusive Abercrombie Three (brothers Brian and Brandon Ferguson, and their friend Cole Barker) and, this morning, interviewed them in their natural habitat (that would be Lexington, Kentucky). The Abercrombie Three, mysteries no longer!

Some revelations, per the A3:

1. The A3 are not corporate plants. Cole works at an Abercrombie store, yes. He got the shirts and gave them to Brian and Brandon. They all, apparently, just happened to be wearing the shirts to the speech. And their placement behind Obama was, apparently random. From Brandon:

We were all standing there, and some guy, I don’t know who it was, they came to us and asked—not to us directly, but to a big cluster of us and asked us if we wanted to be in the backdrop of Obama’s party. So we said, yes, we get to be on national television, what an opportunity, a great opportunity to just be on TV.

2. The A3 aren’t all, necessarily, Obama supporters. Cole is a fan of the Illinois senator; Brian and Brandon accompanied him to the speech for the fun of it.

3. The A3 weren’t bored during the speech, as it seemed from their continually distracted behavior. (At one point, Brandon actually took a phone call. “I think it was instinct to answer my phone,” he explained. “We’re in a world nowadays that we just answer our phone on instinct.”) They acted distracted because “we couldn’t hear any of the speech,” they said.

4. Brian thinks “this has been the most stressful week ever.”

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.