The Twitter excuse

Politicians pretend their Twitter accounts are really from them, until it serves their purpose to deny it.

If you’re on Twitter, perhaps you follow local, state and national politicians. Over time, it becomes obvious that many of the politicians aren’t really doing the tweeting; their staff members are.

As social networking has an increasing impact on the media landscape, should there be a general ethical guideline on the practice? If you’re not who you say you are, is there a responsibility to say who you are?

It bit Rep. Joe Barton today.

Barton, you may recall, is the House Republican who apologized to BP for the “shakedown” of $20 billion to compensate those affected by the Gulf oil spill.

Later, he apologized for his apology.

Today, however, Barton caused a stir when he tweeted this:


The link goes to an American Spectator article called, “Joe Barton Was Right..” Tweeting it suggested that Barton was unapologizing for his apology to BP.

But, no. Barton’s Twitter account isn’t really Barton. It’s his spokesman, who told the Washington Post, “Without thinking about it much, I added a headline from one of the daily news clips to a website that is, in turn, linked to the congressman’s Twitter account. Mr. Barton was not aware of the Tweet…”

Twitter, and other social media, had the capacity to change the relationship that people have with their politicians. Instead, it’s offered a new avenue for deniability for things said in their name.

  • Joe Barton convoluted, almost nonsensical and I believe insincere apology was forced by Republican leadership. This Tweet likely reflects his real opinion.

  • Kevin Watterson

    Our members handle their own Twittering.

  • John P.

    They don’t write their own speeches, campaign commercials, or mailings either, but they are still responsible for what goes out in them.