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The Week on Politwoops: Deletions deserve an explanation

Friday, April 3, 2015 9:11
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(Before It's News)

By The Sunlight Foundation

A deleted tweet from the official House account of Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., that was caught by Politwoops.

Deleted tweet and image via Politwoops.

A few days ago, the official account for Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., deleted a tweet saying, “Both of these headlines deserve the front page. @WSJ” with a photo of the Business section seen to the right. Nothing similar replaced it, and her account ignored my straightforward question, “Why’d you delete this?” That simple question deserves a simple answer.

By comparison, Wagner’s colleague Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, often proactively explains his deletions through another deletion. This week he removed a tweet and quickly followed it with a deletion easily explaining, “Deleted to add photo.”

Wagner’s deletion, as is the case with many sarcastic or funny deletions, was likely the result of a staffer accidentally logged into their boss’ Twitter account. The staffers who juggle management of multiple accounts occasionally mix them up. It’s odd to see some politicians shun explanations when it’s hardly a controversial or nefarious messaging removal. The tone of a member of Congress may be quite different than the personal accounts of a young staffer, but a seemingly sarcastic deletion about newspaper headlines? Come on.

There are dozens of examples of staff mix-ups in Politwoops, but a few standouts include when the official account of Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., deleted a photo of two cars with the message, “Jane and Mindy go to the car wash ❤” Or there’s the time the official account of Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., deleted a tweet saying, “God I love this song. And beach music. AND shagging.” After press attention, Elizabeth Lauten, Fincher’s communications director at the time, owned up to the deletion and explained, “Shagging is dancing to me, and it was no big deal being a North Carolina girl.”

Most deletions are self-explanatory when compared to their replacement. The deleted tweets that stand out are ones that were never replaced, were deleted a long time after being posted or had significant changes to the message. Wagner’s deletion was never replaced or explained, which is why I followed up with the question. Jim Romenesko, a media journalist with a popular blog, covered the deletion and wrote, “Wagner aide Brett Mulvihill said he’d look into it (“it was probably a mistake”) and get back to me. I’ll keep you posted.” He never followed up.

Wagner’s stubbornness to explain a simple deletion is emblematic of politicians’ preoccupation with image management, no matter how trivial the issue. If you have a moment this weekend, please send me an email if you find accounts that Politwoops is missing.

The Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.


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