What Makes a Closet a Closet?

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Photo: Good Morning America

When Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers showed up at the mansion of Alan Ginsburg (the real estate executive, not the dead poet) last Wednesday to cover, as the White House's pool reporter, a fund-raising event with Vice-President Joe Biden, he was shooed into a closet for an hour until Biden arrived because speaking to guests was off-limits. The story became a sensation over the weekend for obvious reasons. But was it a closet? As Powers wrote last night:

I called it a closet, because it was stuffed with shelves, boxes, baskets and other items in storage, and it felt like a closet. The vice president’s office called it a room used for storage. It had a light, a window somewhere in the back behind the shelves full of boxes, and a few square feet of open space in the front. They set up a small table and a chair for me. They offered me food, which I declined, and brought me a bottle of water. They closed the door.

Indeed, the vice-president's office, in a statement apologizing to Powers for his treatment, says that while "hold rooms" are sometimes "provided for pool reporters to wait for the speaking program to commence," a hold room "should not be a storage room."

So which was it? From our personal perspective, closets don't normally have windows or space for a table and chair, but Ginsburg's closets are probably a bit nicer than any closet we have owned or will ever own. Obviously, Biden's office has an incentive in referring to Powers's hold room as a "storage room" instead of a "closet." "Closet" conjures up images of a dark, oxygen-scarce space where people are bound and gagged after being kidnapped. Sometimes they smell like mothballs and/or house secret porn stashes. If Powers was in a "closet," the whole episode gets a bit more outrageous than if he was in a "storage room." Ultimately, though, whatever the room was doesn't excuse Powers's treatment. He was in a mansion, one with, presumably, many other rooms more suited to prolonged occupation by a human being. Biden's team also could have just been less anal and let Powers talk to the guests, which we're sure would have been completely uneventful anyway.

How my wait in a closet almost brought down the White House [Orlando Sentinel]
Biden Team Apologizes to Reporter for Sticking Him In Closet [Political Punch/ABC News]