An official White House photo of President Barack Obama generated some buzz last week, mostly because it invited more questions than answers.
Well, really just one question: what the heck was Obama doing with that baseball bat?
The White House offered no information other than the simple caption, “President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey in the Oval Office, July 30, 2012.”
When asked by reporters just what Obama was doing gripping a bat while speaking with a world leader, press secretary Jay Carney said he would look into it.
The Turks, for their part, had plenty to say. From Reuters:
“The photo reveals from whom our Prime Minister receives orders to rule the country,” Metin Lutfi Baydar, a lawmaker with Turkey’s main opposition party the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in a statement.
CHP vice president Umut Oran asked through parliament if Erdogan had seen the picture and if he would take action against “an implicit insult to Turkey and its citizens”.
Some newspapers took a more lighthearted view, with columnist Ahmet Hakan of Hurriyet writing: “We need to do something – retaliation seems to be the most reasonable method.”
“Our prime minister needs to hold something in his hand as he’s calling Obama,” he added, suggesting as possible candidates a slipper, a belt or a rolling pin.
A White House spokeswoman responded to the photo inquiries on Friday and said the administration was aware of the international attention. Still, there was no answer to the bat question.
“We released the photo with only one purpose in mind, to highlight the President’s continuing close relationship with Prime Minister Erdogan and draw attention to the important conversation they had about the worsening situation in Syria,” spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. “The President values his friendship and close partnership with Prime Minister Erdogan on a range of important issues on which the United States cooperates with Turkey.”
Erdogan on Sunday dismissed opposition criticism of the photo, telling Turkey’s A Haber news station that Obama is “a friend who never falls short of respect or politeness,” according to the Associated Press.