At an education-themed event today hosted by the Manhattan Institute featuring Jeb Bush and Michael Bloomberg, something happened.
There’s probably more to say. But despite the fact that the event was on the mayor’s public schedule, and that the Manhattan Institute called around to invite reporters to watch, the press wasn’t actually welcome.
After the mayor arrived, employees of the Union Club, where the event was held, began purging the room, plucking reporters from their seats around white-clothed tables. The Club’s explanations ranged from improper attire (no jeans or sneakers) to the citing of strict privacy policies for members.
Representatives of the New York Times, the New York Post, the Daily News, and The New York Sun were all removed or barred entry. (Later, a Manhattan Institute representative said that Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and two Economist correspondents, who were all well dressed, left of their own accord. Mort Zuckerman, the publisher of the Daily News, was not asked to leave and stayed in his seat at a table with Mr. Bush.)
“It’s a private club not a public club,” said a club official who refused to give his name. “I’m calling the police.”
When pressed for an explanation for the club’s policy, he added, “This is the Union Club and there are Union Club rules.”
A short woman who worked for the Club also came over to the scrum of intransigent reporters. “Please leave,” she said, as Bloomberg spoke to the non-media guests.
She said better explanations of the club’s policy could be provided by “Mr. David” whose number or title she refused to divulge. She then added that the “redhead at the bottom of the stairs” could help, if the reporters first agreed to leave the premises.
The reporters did not leave. The lady with the red hair, who identified herself as Carmen O’Connor, the Club Secretary, marched to the foyer and stood in front of a portrait of a man named Lucious Wilmerding. She said the event was “never open to the press.”
When asked why it was on the mayor’s public schedule, she replied “How should I know? I don’t work for the mayor.” She explained the Club’s policy thusly: “The policy right now is no comment.”
An hour later, the mayor left the building and refused to comment. Mr. Bush left soon after, and in brief remarks with the reporters on the street, talked about education and the benefits of greater “transparency.”
UPDATE: The Manhattan Institute just apologized for the Union Club’s behavior and has put Bush’s remarks online.