the kicker

Scenes from a Stall

For Clinton's press corps, being kept in the loop meant being kept in the loo
March 4, 2008

The teaser says it all: “Jackie Calmes reports from the men’s room, with the Clinton campaign in Austin.”

In a dispatch to the WSJ’s Washington Wire blog, Calmes reported from the workspace set aside for reporters during Clinton’s “Texas-sized townhall” yesterday evening: the men’s room of Austin’s Berger Activity Center. The five-hour-long water-closeting was the result of an apparent error (the room had been described to her as a “locker-room space,” an “abjectly apologetic” Clinton press aide, Jamie Smith, told reporters), and the press “were mostly amused” by the scene. (Hard not to be, with priceless images like this—and with a situation that finds the likes of Tina Brown, Calmes noted, “gamely typing away close to a toilet.”) At one point during Water(Closet)gate, Time’s Karen Tumulty reported, “a gentleman just wandered in, expecting to use the facilities, and looked very startled to see three dozen reporters typing away on their laptops.”

As for the many metaphors that may arise from the HRC/WC situation: “These accommodations should in no way be taken as a commentary on the quality of our media coverage,” Clinton spokesman Doug Hattaway wrote in an e-mail statement. Hmm. Presumably he meant “treatment of the media.” Or maybe he didn’t: maybe Hattaway has a Freudian chip on his shoulder. The Clinton campaign, after all, often complains of its crappy media coverage; what better way to say thanks for that coverage than to sequester media members in a bathroom? Perhaps Team Clinton was taking the media’s declarations of its stalling campaign to heart—and responding in kind.

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