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Obama's News Conference Sparks Battle of the Steves

Nobody likes to see an underdog get hosed. But hosed one got last night when the wrong Steve stood up and took Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Steve Koff's rightful turn asking a question at President Obama's prime time news conference.

And today, the other Steve, the Steve who stole the real Steve Koff's question, is feeling a bit sheepish.

"How embarrassing. I heard him wrong," Steve Thomma, a reporter for McClatchy newspapers tells The Sleuth. "I heard him say Steve, then what sounded roughly like my last name and wrongly assumed it was me."

Thomma says he was so anxious to ask his question on health care that he reflexively turned to grab the microphone from the young White House aide kneeling next to him and didn't hear the president add "... of the Cleveland Plain Dealer."

The president was so sure he was answering the Plain Dealer's question that he strategically referenced his planned trip to Cleveland on Thursday to visit the Cleveland Clinic.

"I didn't know anything was amiss 'til I asked a follow-up and he made a comment about visiting my home town on Thursday," Thomma told us. "I knew he was heading to Cleveland. My home town is Chicago."

Koff -- the real Steve Koff of Cleveland, that is -- finally piped up after Obama finished answering the wrong Steve's question. The president was puzzled as the press corps roared.

"Oh. I said Steve Koff but he just stood up, huh?" the president said, adding with a nod toward Thomma, "That's not fair. Shame on you."

This is the second time President Obama has had to address Thomma personally at a news conference due to a mix-up.

During the transition, the president-elect actually apologized to Thomma at a televised news conference after his staff placed Thomma, a life-long White Sox fan, in a section of the press gallery labeled for -- gasp! -- Cubs fans.

"And now he's had to say 'shame on you' for jumping into another reporter's slot," Thomma said, adding, "I don't know which is worse, being identified on national TV as an over-eager knucklehead, or as someone from Cleveland."

Ouch. Poor Cleveland.

Thomma says he sent his apologies last night to Koff via e-mail.

Editors at the underdog Plain Dealer registered their annoyance over the mix-up in the headline of a story posted on the paper's Web site last night: "Obama mis-IDs 'imposter' as Cleveland's Steve Koff."

If the press snafu becomes running fodder for late-night comedy and someone like, say, David Letterman actually invites one of the Steves on his show, Thomma already has a plan. "If Letterman calls Steve Koff, I'll jump in and take the call."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  July 23, 2009; 10:28 AM ET
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Has Sen. Crissy Dodd (D - CT) refinanced his Countrywide loan ?

Posted by: hclark1 | July 23, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I always find it curious that the President doesn't seem to know many of the people attending these press conferences because he reads out a name and looks around to see who stands up. Did none of these people cover him over the last 18 months of campaign and being in office? Or, is he so complacent about the love from the media that he doesn't need to know who they are. Seems like an unkind cut for a group that typically has been so supportive of him.

Posted by: annetta3 | July 24, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

If a reporter doesn't know their own name can we really believe anything they write?

Posted by: rlj1 | July 27, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Obama was right:
"In several cases, the courts in Massachusetts have considered whether a person is guilty of disorderly conduct for verbally abusing a police officer. In Commonwealth v. Lopiano, a 2004 decision, an appeals court held it was not disorderly conduct for a person who angrily yelled at an officer that his civil rights were being violated. In Commonwealth v. Mallahan, a decision rendered last year, an appeals court held that a person who launched into an angry, profanity-laced tirade against a police officer in front of spectators could not be convicted of disorderly conduct."

Posted by: JRM2 | July 28, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

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