January 19th, 2010
06:11 AM ET
11 years ago

Obama's first 'tweet' makes presidential history

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/18/art.obamatweets.twitter.jpg caption="Digital history was made Monday when President Obama became the first commander-in-chief to 'tweet' a message."]

Washington (CNN) – Digital history was made Monday when President Obama became the first commander-in-chief to "tweet" a message on the social networking site, though he had a little bit of help.

When Obama stopped at the headquarters of the American Red Cross' to promote aid to Haiti, a member of the agency's new media team wrote a message on Twitter.com telling people he had arrived.

"President Obama and the first lady are here visiting our disaster operation center right now," the Red Cross staffer wrote.

The new media staffer then asked the president to hit "Update" on the screen and Obama posted the item himself under the @RedCross handle at Twitter.com.

A moment later the Red Cross staffer posted a follow-up tweet: "President Obama pushed the button on the last tweet. It was his first ever tweet!"

White House aides told CNN they believe it is Obama's first-ever tweet. During the presidential campaign, the Obama team used the @BarackObama account to send out quick messages in the then-senator's voice, but he did not physically post the items himself, a disappointment to some of his techie supporters.

And after the @BarackObama account took a brief respite after the 2008 election, Gawker.com poked fun by saying his followers had been "Twittered into contributing money and time, and then passed over for more presidential means of communication. Like, say, press conferences."

Aides to former President George W. Bush told CNN that he never published a tweet, and they were happy to crown Obama as the first tweeting President - with a catch.

"Welcome to Twitter, Mr. President - I'll follow you if you follow me," Tony Fratto, a former Bush spokesman, joked to CNN by e-mail.

It's unlikely the president will be doing much tweeting in office, however. White House personnel – other than a couple of top aides such as Bill Burton – are restricted from using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. There are security concerns with White House computers, and administration officials are also not supposed to be tweeting on taxpayer time.

Besides, the commander-in-chief is a little busy to be re-tweeting the latest cat video on YouTube.

In fact, he admitted to never using Twitter during his trip to China late last year.

"Let me say that I have never used Twitter," Obama said in response to a question from a Chinese student about using Twitter freely in China. Obama continued: "I noticed that young people – they're very busy with all these electronics. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone."

That may have upset some of the president's supporters, who thought he was tweeting during the campaign, a point Republicans are only too happy to highlight.

"It's great President Obama is using social media to build support for much-needed Haiti relief. But, if this was his first Tweet, who is @BarackObama?" asked former Bush spokesman Scott Stanzel, who noted that the @BarackObama is "verified" as being used by the 44th President of the United States.

Filed under: President Obama • Social Networking • Twitter
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