At this point, it’s perplexing to see how National Park Service spokesman Bill Line still has a job. He hasn’t talked to me since refusing to provide a map I wanted for this story—except for leaving the longest phone message I have ever received to yell about about the “bias” in this other story (the NPS is very friendly toward bikes, he’ll have you know).
But the New York Times‘ Juliet Macur may have done the best job yet of capturing Line’s apparent hatred of journalists. In a report about the fact that the Marine Corps Marathon will not share its Porta Potties with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert‘s sure-to-be-massive rallies the day before, she captures this exchange:
“It is common, typical, regular, ordinary for us to handle multiple events on the National Mall at any given time. Do you get that?”
When asked if the rallies and the marathon might create a problem regarding the availability of toilets on the Mall, Mr. Line sounded incredulous.
“I have every right to ask questions, and I am asking questions that I would like an answer to,” he shouted. “Who’s making these allegations? I want to know who is saying there will be a problem with portable restrooms.”
She isn’t exaggerating about the shouting, by the way. Or the suspicion that the story must be motivated by some shadowy outside force; Line also demanded to know who was complaining about D.C.’s lack of ownership over its parks when I wrote about that. And it’s not just Macur and me—Mother Jones‘ Stephanie Mencimer and TBD’s Andrew Beaujon both responded to the story with some familiarity with Line’s ways, as did freelance writer Jessica Weiss.
Forget Colbert—it looks like Line is the guy who’s really keeping fear alive. Most of the time, it’s a press liaison’s job to make their agency look good. Perhaps Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity can help restore a little at the Park Service headquarters, too.