Let's Remember the Time Joe Biden Locked a Florida Journalist in a Closet

Joe Biden, the former vice president running to replace Donald Trump as America's top porridge-brained mess of a leader, has had one hell of a week.

Biden, age 76, seems so decrepit it might be dangerous to let him campaign for the presidency: His teeth have fallen out during debates, he sometimes can't remember where he is, and he often babbles on debate stages about straight-up nonsense, including the time he bafflingly told viewers to "go to Joe 30330" without explaining that his supporters should text that number on their phones. Just last week, Biden ranted like a lunatic during the latest Democratic debate and also told a bizarre story about a dude nicknamed "Corn Pop" he knew from a Wilmington, Delaware public pool.

But Biden has always been an odd character prone to slips of the tongue and ridiculous mistakes. Take, for instance, the apocryphal time in 2011 when his campaign team locked an Orlando Sentinel reporter in a closet/storage room for 90 minutes. Per a New Times story from that year:
Gov. Rick Scott has had his well-known tiffs with the Florida press pool, but at least he's not locking them in closets. Vice President Joe Biden was in the Orlando area last week headlining a private fundraiser for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Journalist Scott Powers of the Orlando Sentinel was selected as the pool reporter, but to prevent him from mingling with guests before the veep arrived, Biden's team basically locked the journalist in a closet.

"Turns out the veep hadn't arrived, but about 150 guests (minimum donation $500) were already in the house," the Sentinel's recount reads. "So to prevent Scott from mingling with the crowd, a member of Biden's advance team consigned him to a storage closet — and then stood outside the door to make sure he didn't walk out without permission."

Powers was locked in the closet for about 90 minutes and allowed out only to hear Nelson and Biden deliver their remarks. He was then locked back in the closet in the private home of developer Alan Ginsburg.

Biden's team has since apologized for the slipup, but apparently the treatment isn't all that uncommon at these kinds of events. Plus, given journalists' salaries, living in closet-like spaces is also not uncommon. 
The story, predictably, exploded all over the web in 2011. And it should have, because the alleged details were absurdly hilarious. But the media fervor then sort of spiraled out of control, and the Sentinel reporter himself then wrote an op-ed telling everyone to chill out a bit and that, although he was shoved into a closet-like room for more than an hour, he wasn't necessarily kidnapped.

Here's an excerpt:
In fact, a lot of details circulating through the blogosphere — and into some mainstream media — about my coverage of Biden's fundraising visit to a Winter Park home last Wednesday were news to me.

Take a couple details of information, toss them into the Internet and it can become like a child's game of telephone — with each rendition adding spin and details. Only in this politically-charged environment, those spin and details can crystallize toward scandal. That's especially true when it involves the vice president of the United States in an administration that has enraged a segment of American society.

Here's what happened. I showed up at the private home of developer, philanthropist and political contributor Alan Ginsburg Wednesday morning to file a pool report on the visit there by Biden and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando. When I arrived I was told I would not be able to speak with any of the people at the party, and that I was to wait in a room until Biden and Nelson arrived. I went in willingly, with the understanding that I was free to leave — but if I left I'd probably have to leave the house entirely, and not get to cover the speeches.

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. I sat to wait, mistakenly thinking it would be only a few minutes. The door wasn't locked, though every time I opened it and stepped out to see what was going on a staffer told me I couldn't come out yet. He'd let me know.

It was more than an hour, and when I was finally led out, Ginsburg, Nelson and Biden were just getting ready to talk. I listened, recorded the speeches and took notes, then was led back to the little room to wait until they left, about 15 more minutes, before they led me to my car.

While I was in the closet, getting impatient and annoyed, I snapped a picture with my cell phone and e-mailed it to my editor, Bob Shaw, explaining that this is where I was at, and this is why I wouldn't be filing anything about the party before the speeches. He wrote up an item and posted it, with the picture, on this blog. His post was a bit snarky. He likes snarky. So do I. I thought it was funny. The post and picture also ran in the Orlando Sentinel newspaper the next morning, along with my write-up of Biden's speech. People told me they thought it was funny.
It was, indeed, very funny — almost as funny as the time Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson got stuck in a Miami elevator, but we digress.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.