Let me begin by saying that I did not actually witness the Cottontail Caper go down at the White House Wednesday afternoon.
I was to the right to the President, inside the golden ropes that lined the golden seats laid in pristine rows in The Blue Room. This was moments before Mr. Obama would take official photos with UConn’s official traveling crew.
To be honest, I was sandwiched as tightly as a slice of mozzarella in a Panini by other media members, much of my sightline obscured. What I could see was the battery about dead in my cell phone, silenced to a whisper by my attempts to be reporter, still photographer and videographer on a very busy news day.
So, when the phone rang and hour later in my hotel room – yes, I had plugged it in – and my boss asked me if there was anything about UConn’s Stefanie Dolson giving the President “bunny ears” I was somewhat confused.
Bunny ears, I thought? Do you mean, Stefanie went to a souvenir store and bought a pair of costume bunny ears to give to the president?
Strange I thought; I didn’t know she was a Republican.
Then it was explained to me that Dolson and Kiah Stokes had popped a pair of old school bunny ears on the Commander-In-Chief as the photo session was going on.
You know, two fingers formed into a “V,” the “V” designed to look like a pair of bunny rabbit ears. And then they placed the “V” on top of Obama’s head – to get a laugh.
Oh, those “Bunny Ears.” I got it now, boss.
If you watching the Today Show this morning or reading the London Daily Mail in Heathrow Airport, you have discovered by now that this gesture has mass-produced, as bunnies are known to do.
I will not pretend to be Bill O’Reilly or Rachel Maddow. I will not summon talking heads from academia and politics to debate the intent and meaning of playfully slapping bunny ears on the President in a formal setting.
Some of you are likely scowling, looking at this act as one of disrespect. You have your right to your opinion.
Some of you are likely chuckling, clued into how impetuous some young people can be when excited and nervous and yet feeling comfortable at the same time. You have your right to your opinion.
Let me say this: I have intensely checked the Zapruder film of this incident. I have slowed down the frames and kicked up the volume looking for evidence of a conspiracy to embarrass. I have made contact with UConn.
This is what I have discovered:
As Wednesday’s ceremony in the East Room of the White House was winding down, President Obama was posing with the team for a group picture. As the cameras were flashing the president quipped to the players behind him on the stage, “Alright, no rabbit ears now.”
Everyone laughed and after a moment he exclaimed, “Ok, you can go ahead with the rabbit ears.”
Dolson and Stokes, well-meaning kids, couldn’t resist and flashed the rabbit ears behind the president’s head. It was all very well-natured. Everyone had a good laugh.
Especially at Fox News.
This will go away soon, as everything that swirls in a news cycle does. The pundits will debate and then something else will come up and the pundits will forget.
But what I fear, as a journalist assigned to cover the team, is that whoever the dean of discipline is at UConn will scold the Dolson and Stokes in a way that will remind and re-affirm to them how cautious and distrustful they need to be of the media.
That would be a shame, just as much as casting a negative light on these young women would be.
Bunny ears. Every day brings a new adventure