Ladies and Gentlemen, the Secret Service Will Now Confiscate Your Forks

A startling announcement at a lunch for Latino lawmakers sheds light on a little-known aspect of Presidential security

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BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images

A Secret Service agent holds his tuxedo together as US President Barack Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House on May 8, 2012 in Washington.

The life of a politician is a neverending cycle of fundraising dinners and lunches, and President Obama’s is no exception. But please, the Secret Service kindly requests that you do not use your fork in the presence of the Commander in Chief.

Last friday,  National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials board member Raquel Regalado asked the 1,000 people attending the group’s annual conference for Latino lawmakers to be prepared to fork over their cutlery. “It’s very important that you use your utensils as soon as possible,” she notified the audience. The Secret Service, as it turns out, had asked the organization to remove all knives and forks before Obama entered the room.

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Though it sounds silly, those who protect the President insist that such requests are fairly common. “The Secret Service coordinates this process with staff and host committee to ensure tables are cleared of material that may be deemed hazardous prior to the arrival of the president,” Secret Service agent Max Milien verified with Politico. Athough usually, the silverware is quietly removed at such functions without diners realizing it – and without public announcement.

But is silverware really a threat? We’re fairly sure we’ve seen Obama and forks together before. In other cases, the security outfit adjusts the president’s security depending on different factors, from everything to who’s in attendance to how large or intimate the gathering is. The Secret Service will even go so far as to keep everything under wraps until the last possible minute to prevent extensive security checks on everyone in attendance.

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In Regalado’s case, she had to remind everyone to quickly finish their lunch entrées. “As you know, we’re having another speaker and there is some Secret Service involved. So there’s a reason why there’s no knives at your table and the forks will be collected. … And I’m not joking,” she warned the audience.

“So, like the good Hispanic mother, I’m here to tell you to please eat your lunch.”

Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME and the editor of Map Happy. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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