It wasn’t only journalists and Twitter aficionados who had Sunday’s big news posted on social media websites long before cable networks: At least one Member of Congress had the scoop, too.
Rep. Dennis Ross was getting ready for bed when he flipped on the news and heard of President Barack Obama’s unscheduled address. The Florida Republican wasn’t ready to believe the speculation he was hearing on television, so he pulled up Twitter.
“The more and more I got to thinking about it, I thought why would they be doing this on a Sunday night at 10:30,” he said.
Once he had seen several tweets confirming Osama bin Laden’s death — including one from Keith Urbahn, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s current chief of staff — he quickly tweeted his own at 10:41 p.m.: “Bin Laden is dead. GOD BLESS AMERICA!”
The Congressman, who’s a big fan of Twitter and social media, praised its ability to reach thousands of people in an instant.
“Twitter is so much more effective than press releases,” he said. “We’re showing that it’s a brave new world in terms of technology.”
Like Ross, more than a few Members of Congress were in bed when they heard the news. A sleepy Sen. Pat Roberts got a call from staff telling him to flip on the television. The Kansas Republican stayed up to write a “little dissertation, op-ed” after he heard the news.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) also had his eyes trained on the TV — though his were glued to the Phillies game. A spokeswoman interrupted the match to tell him the news.
At least a couple of Members were on their way back to D.C. when they heard. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he was waiting for a plane at the Detroit airport when Defense Secretary Robert Gates called, and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) was getting off a plane from China when he heard the news.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.