WASHINGTON—The White House called a strike on Thursday over the selfie stunt pulled by Boston Red Sox superstar David Ortiz, who cajoled President Barack Obama into posing for a Samsung cellphone photo—the company paying the slugger to plug their products.
The White House on Wednesday did not object to the Ortiz selfie, taken Tuesday during a photo op with Obama while the 2013 World Series champs were being honored at the White House. On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney came out swinging for what amounted to a marketing coup for Samsung—at the expense of the president.
“As a rule, the White House objects to attempts to use the President’s likeness for commercial purposes,” said Carney, so much a Red Sox fan that he wore a Red Sox cap during the Tuesday ceremony celebrating the team.
But Ortiz went too far, and Carney made it clear the White House counsel has had some communication with Samsung. After Ortiz tweeted out his selfie with Obama, Samsung retweeted it to its 5.2 million followers, promoting the cell phone model Ortiz used. That in effect turned the selfie into an ad.
“Without getting into counsel’s discussions, I can tell you that as a rule the White House objects to attempts to use the President’s likeness for commercial purposes. And we certainly object in this case.”
Asked why no complaint on Tuesday, Carney said, “it does stand to reason we have objected in the past. We object now. But I’m not going to get into the manner of objection, except for the manner I just delivered it.”
Presidents do not do overt celebrity-style product endorsements. And a company that implies such risks getting a call from the White House.
Obama was photographed at the Great Wall of China wearing a jacket made by the Weatherproof Garment Co. In 2010, the company featured the photo on a billboard in Times Square—and took it down after the White House complained.
Not that Obama is above hyping a product or company—but its done on his terms. On Wednesday, Obama stopped at Zingerman’s deli in Ann Arbor, Mich; he held an event at a Costco store because the chain has supported boosts in the minimum wage.
And in 2010, Obama gave Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co. a boost by touting its 312 Urban Wheat Ale in connection with a visit with then British Prime Minister David Cameron.
When Obama hosted Cameron at the White House, he started their news conference with a reference to a Goose Island brew.