David Ortiz, it appears, has left his mark on political history. This week, he may have killed the presidential selfie.
Ever since the World Series champion Boston Red Sox visited the White House Tuesday, with Ortiz snapping a self-portrait with President Obama on his smartphone, D.C. has been set to vibrate. Ortiz, it turned out, had a social media deal with Samsung, and the Korean phonemaker said in statement after Ortiz tweeted his photo: “When we heard about the visit to the White House, we worked with David and the team on how to share images with fans.”
Yes, that would be the president unwittingly shilling for the Galaxy Note 3 smartphone. The White House was not pleased.
Now, White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday: "Maybe this will be the end of all selfies. [Obama] obviously didn’t know anything about Samsung’s connection to this."
At this rate, Doris Kearns Goodwin could add an entire selfies chapter in a retrospective on the Obama presidency. In December, it was the president who was criticized for taking a selfie – with the prime ministers of Britain and Denmark at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
For the president who has essentially invented the political social media playbook, there is some irony in all this.
Obama has certainly embraced the power of Twitter to promote his image. His selfie in South Africa at the time set a record on Twitter for the most retweets. But comedian Ellen DeGeneres broke that record last month with a selfie she took at the Oscars with actors including Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, and Jennifer Lawrence.
When Obama later appeared on Ms. DeGeneres’s talk show, “Ellen,” he quipped: “I thought it was a pretty cheap stunt myself – getting a lot of celebrities in the background, you feeding them pizza.”
The DeGeneres selfie, appropriately enough, was also coordinated by Samsung as a promotion for the exact same device Ortiz used.
For his part, Ortiz has defended himself, saying the photo was not part of a marketing ploy.
“I don’t understand where that stuff is coming from," he told The Boston Globe. “That was one of those things that just happened. I gave him the jersey, and the photographers were going to take their pictures and I thought, really at the last second, maybe I should snap a shot with my phone while I have the chance ... It had nothing to do with no deals.”
Alex Radetsky, whose Radegen Sports Management represents Ortiz, insisted to Mashable that "it certainly was not part of the [Samsung] deal. It was spontaneous on his part."
As for the White House? Mr. Pfeiffer, at least, apparently did think the photo was a pretty cheap stunt.