The incident took place this week, when the World Series champion Boston Red Sox were recognized by the White House. At the event, designated hitter David Ortiz asked the president if the two of them could pose for a “selfie” with his Samsung smartphone, and Obama obliged, while one of Ortiz’s Red Sox teammates yelled “cha-ching” in the background, mimicking the sound of a cash register.
The White House had “no idea” David Ortiz was sponsored by Samsung, and officials are reportedly “not happy” that the president was roped into what is alleged to have been a promotional stunt.
Since then, it’s been noted that Ortiz is actually sponsored by Samsung, leading to allegations that the stunt was paid for by the company. Samsung Mobile also retweeted the image to promote “Big Papi’s” use of one of the Galaxy Note 3 handset.
Samsung was asked by the New York Daily News whether the picture was sponsored, and the company issued a statement saying that officials “worked with David and the team on how to share images with fans,” but that the company “didn’t know if or what he would be able to capture.”
After Ortiz’s sponsorship was brought to light, the White House told CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante that it had “no idea” the picture was a promotional effort by Samsung. He revealed that White House officials are “not happy” about the incident, but they have not made any requests to remove the tweets from Ortiz or Samsung.
“They don’t want to appear heavy-handed,” Plante said.
For his part, Ortiz has insisted that the photo with Obama was spontaneous, and was not sponsored by Samsung.
The incident marks the second time this year that Samsung has been connected to a high-profile celebrity “selfie” to promote its devices in the highly competitive smartphone space. At the Academy awards in March, Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres snapped a star-studded picture with a Galaxy Note as part of a sponsorship arrangement with Samsung. The comedienne also tweeted out other pictures taken that night with her iPhone.