Much ado over missing Hillary Clinton photos
September 20th, 2013
05:45 PM ET
11 months ago

Much ado over missing Hillary Clinton photos

Washington (CNN) - They say a photo is worth a thousand words.

But in the case of some Hillary Clinton pictures allegedly going missing from a person's phone, a photo is worth two different stories.

One side

Andrew Rothberg, president of marketing and sales at a Florida magazine, said he took a few photos and some video from his smartphone of the secretary of state when she stepped onstage to give a speech Thursday. Clinton was in Miami to address a convention for the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).

Rothberg, who said he was sitting in an aisle seat towards the back of the auditorium, said a woman with a walkie-talkie came up to him.

"They grabbed it out of my hand," he told CNN. "They said you'll get this back out after the show."

He felt perplexed but said he didn't argue with the individual. He heard convention organizers announce photography would not be allowed during the speech, but he had assumed they simply meant no "flash photography."

The incident was first reported by a reporter for the Miami Herald, who was sitting close to Rothberg and witnessed the situation.

Rothberg told CNN he got the phone back after about 20 minutes, though he doesn't recall if they handed it to him while he was still in his seat, or if he picked it up on his way out.

What he did notice, however, was that the "three or four" photos he had taken were now missing.

"I was just taking it for my two daughters," Rothberg said, adding he wasn't "just some guy" who was going to put the photos up online or on YouTube. "She's an important person, an influential person. Very smart. And even though I'm not a Democrat, I respect her."

A photo he had taken of the stage before Clinton appeared, however, remained on his phone. Rothberg emailed the photo to CNN.

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While Rothberg was there as a journalist for a magazine, he wasn't planning to write an article about her speech, he said. His Boca Raton-based publication, Grey Matters, was covering the convention as a whole.

Rothberg was still puzzled that Clinton wouldn't want publicity, especially if she may run for president in 2016.

Regardless, Rothberg felt the story, which generated national headlines, was "getting blown way out of proportion."

"I don't think it is that big of a deal," he said.

The other side

Paul Ruden, senior vice president for legal and industry affairs at ASTA, had a different version of the incident.

Ruden stressed audience members were told before Clinton's speech that videos, photos and audio recording were prohibited–a provision in her contract for the speech. Ruden emphasized it's a common request from speakers. In the past, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former first lady Barbara Bush requested the same requirements at ASTA conventions, he said.

While some Secret Service members were in attendance, Ruden said ASTA provided members of their own staff to enforce the rules during the speech. The Hyatt Regency Miami hotel said they did not use their own security personnel for her speech.

Of the 700-800 people in the auditorium, Ruden said he and his staff verbally reminded about 10 people to stop taking photos when Clinton took the stage.

However, Ruden said a staff member from his own department noticed Rothberg taking photos. She approached him "politely and told him to stop."

According to Ruden, the staff member said Rothberg indicated he would not stop and continued to try to take photos more discretely. She then told him she would have to confiscate the phone until the speech was over.

"He shrugged his shoulders, she took the phone," Ruden said. "I think the gentleman knew he was wrong."

The ASTA staff member gave it to another staff member, and about 10 minutes later, they returned it to Rothberg while he was still in his seat and while Clinton was still on stage, Ruden said.

Most importantly, the staff member told Ruden she didn't erase any images from his phone.

"She wouldn't know how to erase them," Ruden said. "If anything was erased, it was done by somebody else, and/or it was never actually recorded."

Ruden said he didn't actually see the incident occur, nor was he aware of it until a few hours after the speech, when he was notified of the Miami Herald article online. He then spoke with the staff member involved.

"This was not considered a significant enough moment for anyone to tell me about it," he said. "If there had been some kind of altercation or anything resembling, I would have been told immediately."

As far as he's aware, Ruden said, no other phones were confiscated.

So...what?

While Rothberg and ASTA had different takes on what exactly happened Thursday, they both agreed on one thing: It wasn't a big deal.

With Clinton as a potential presidential nominee, however, her public engagements are viewed under a microscope. And her career is a subject of great interest among the public and the media.

Some outlets quickly seized on the Miami Herald report Thursday, which was headlined, "Hillary Clinton's image control: Security swipes man's phone, erases pic of her at speech." The story fed into buzz about the Hillary Clinton world being a tightly-wound political machine.

Since leaving the state department, Clinton has been active on the speaking circuit, giving paid addresses at trade association gatherings and other events–with some closed to press or cameras.

It appears that at this event, ASTA was in charge of enforcing Clinton's rules, not a member Clinton's own staff.

A spokesperson for Clinton, Nick Merrill, said they were not familiar with the incident and "nobody associated with Secretary Clinton was part of it–security or otherwise."

Whatever happened on Thursday shows one thing for sure: Hillary Clinton is going to remain in the headlines for a while...even if she doesn't always want her picture taken.


Filed under: Hillary Clinton
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    It's good you alluded to Much Ado About Nothing, CNN, because that's what this is.

    September 20, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  2. symone says

    i think somebody was trying to get one of those romney speech moments on her, and they failed miserably. and so he made up a story about pictures being deleted? eh, don't buy it. end of story.

    September 20, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  3. carlos

    Sound like they did him, and the world a favor. Less pictures of her is better for all with vision.

    September 20, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  4. KBNJ

    Looks like Hillary is preparing for 2016 and doesn't want to get caught in a '47%' debacle.

    September 21, 2013 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  5. kirk

    CONSPIRACY!!!!!!! I can hear the nut cases now, you care to start saying?

    September 21, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |