The media vs. the Secret Service


Not too many reporters get to have lunch with former first lady, Laura Bush. My colleague, Gwen Griffin, and I were appointed to do just that.

Of course we had no idea where we were going, so after Sunday School I had a friend drive me to the Georgia International Convention site so I could have a clue on Monday.

We had to turn our cameras in way ahead of time so the Secret Service could take them apart. No one was allowed in the building before 10:30 a.m. so the Secret Service could sweep the room.

We were told that the media would be taken as a group to the Media Table in the dining room and of course, it was the table farthest back, practically out on the parking lot.

Then came the rules: we would be taken as a group to a certain spot kind of near Mrs. Bush, and we only had three minutes to take pictures.

We were herded together in an area about the size of a cocktail table, each in each other’s way and trying to do the best we could. It felt as though we were still a half mile from her. Trust me, when the three minutes were up, we were marched back to the Media Table.

Second rule: when she started to speak, we were NOT allowed to write anything down. No pen to paper, no texting, no recording of any kind.

Folks came by to be sure we were following rule number two. However, we were told that after the speech, anything that you could remember, you could write down. Will someone explain that to me?

The 500 who were there for the occasion, paid $150 each to do so. I watched as they went into the dining room, the ladies with their big purses.

Those big purses were never checked; they could have contained a camera or a bomb. The reporters were thoroughly exasperated after turning in our cameras early, then not being allowed to stay in the building so it could be “swept.”

If someone from the Secret Service would explain this to me, I would be grateful. In the meantime, wherever they are in the future, I don’t think I’ll be there.

[Carolyn Cary is the official Fayette County historian and the editor of the county’s first compiled history, “The History of Fayette County,” published in 1977. She lives in Fayetteville.]