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Posted by on May 3, 2011 in Politics | 25 comments

How The White House Lost Message Control

Watching Raid on Osama Bin Laden

Watching The Raid on Osama Bin Laden : White House Photo

Here’s what I think what happened on Sunday:

  • Press conference scheduled at 10.30 pm eastern
  • List drawn up of people who need to know before 10.30, so that they were not blindsided
  • Timetable for contact developed, working backwards from 10.30 pm

All would have been well — the tweet that broke the story was timestamped 10.24 pm — if the President had kept to the 10.30 press conference time. But he didn’t; it slid an hour. Too many people had been told the news, and once it leaked, the rest felt it was OK to “confirm” (anonymously, of course).

And so, the White House lost control of the message.

Of course, it’s possible that they wanted the news leaked, but I can’t imagine the purpose. 

Note that on Tuesday 3 May, the White House retracted the “woman/wife as a shield” and an armed Osama bin Laden from the official narrative. How could they have accidentally gotten this so wrong? 

  • Osama bin Laden was not armed
  • He did not pull a woman in front of him as a shield
  • A woman was shot but not killed during the attack

These are key discrepancies — and each of them fed the “carnival” or “sports theatre” emotional response that I witnessed on Twitter and Facebook and that millions witnessed as TV cameras showed partiers in NY and DC.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What else in the narrative was fiction?