MEDIA

Secret Service Director To Dispute Early News Reports Of White House Car 'Crash'

03/19/2015 10:11 am ET | Updated Mar 19, 2015
Alex Wong via Getty Images

NEW YORK –- Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy is expected on Thursday to dispute news reports that two senior-level agents “crashed” a car outside the White House earlier this month, according to prepared testimony obtained by The Huffington Post.

Clancy, who has viewed surveillance video of the March 4 incident, is prepared to tell the Senate Appropriations Committee that the footage indicates that “previous reports of a crash are inaccurate -- there was no crash.”

“The video shows the vehicle entering the White House Complex at a speed of approximately 1-2 mph, and pushing aside a plastic barrel,” Clancy will say, according to the remarks. “There was no damage to the vehicle.”

Clancy’s prepared remarks, first reported by The New York Times, echo a source’s description of the incident to HuffPost on Tuesday.

The source, who had viewed the surveillance video but wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, told HuffPost the agents were driving only 1-2 mph and appeared to intentionally nudge a traffic barrel in an attempt to drive through.

This account is odds with the seemingly chaotic version of events initially reported in the press.

The Washington Post first reported the incident on March 11, with a headline indicating that there had been a “car accident” involving two high-ranking agents during an investigation of a suspicious package outside the White House. The Post soon tweaked the headline, instead describing the agents as driving into a "White House barrier.” The report described the agents running through security tape and hitting multiple “barricades” after attending a “late-night party.”

The following day, The Post reported that the agents may have run over the suspicious package that sparked the investigation, a shocking allegation later removed from the top of the article.

Several news outlets, including The New York Times, similarly reported a "crash" taking place outside the White House. The media's early framing of the incident -- possibly drunken agents arriving at the scene of an ongoing investigation and crashing their car -– seemed consistent with perceptions of the embattled agency, which has been dogged in recent years by a prostitution scandal and, more recently, by multiple security lapses involving the White House and the president.

A less dramatic picture, however, began to emerge in the following days through reports by CNN and Fox News. But as Jon Stewart pointed out Monday night on “The Daily Show,” the "car crash" story had already gotten big play on TV news before the more tempered version came to light.

Still, there are questions to answer about the agents’ actions on the night in question, including why they entered the scene of an ongoing investigation, whether agents were instructed not to give the pair a sobriety test and why the director didn’t learn of the incident until five days later.

According to the prepared remarks, Clancy will tell senators that it's “unacceptable” he didn’t learn about the allegations for so long. The Secret Service director is also expected to say that he’s “extremely concerned by the allegations of misconduct and the potential for alcohol involvement.”

On Tuesday, Clancy was grilled about the incident by members of the House Appropriations Committee.

He has turned the investigation of the incident over to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General.

“I trust the OIG’s investigation will be thorough and free from accusations that the Secret Service impeded their independence,” Clancy will say, according to the remarks. “I have committed the Secret Service’s full cooperation to the OIG investigation and eagerly await the findings.”

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