Streaker update: Billionaire won’t pay without White House

Juan J. Rodriguez, 24, of Staten Island, New York City (left) was arrested for running naked through President Obama's rally in Germantown on Sunday (right).
Juan J. Rodriguez, 24, of Staten Island, New York City (left) was arrested for running naked through President Obama's rally in Germantown on Sunday (right). (Joshua Mellman)
Posted: October 13, 2010

A Staten Island man's attempt to win $1 million by streaking in front of President Obama appears to have backfired.

The prank may be on him.

Juan J. Rodriguez, a 24-year-old unemployed painter, took up a challenge made by an Internet billionaire when he ran through a crowd, naked as a jaybird, as Obama was delivering a speech on Sunday at a rally in Germantown.

Only now the billionaire has added an additional requirement before Rodriguez can collect his loot.

Alki David, a sometime B movie actor and an heir to an immense shipping fortune, is now demanding that the White House confirm Obama saw Rodriguez dash by in his birthday suit.

The White House has so far refused to comment on what David has called a "prank." And it's unlikely that it ever will do so.

"There's no need or reason for the White House to accommodate the personal desires of another," said Martha Kumar, a professor at Towson State University in Maryland who specializes in presidential communications.

"In a time when we have 9.6 percent unemployment and the war in Afghanistan, who has time for this kind of nonsense?" she said. "The White House certainly doesn't."

Kumar said the only way the White House would acknowledge the stunt would be "inadvertantly."

On Tuesday, Rodriguez said he'd donate $100,000 to Obama's favorite charity if the president would name one.

Another expert on presidential affairs, Tim Groeling at UCLA, said the stunt doesn't only detract from Obama's "the message of the day."

"If it a serious speech turns into an episode of Jackass, that's corrosive to presidential prestige," said Groeling, the chairman of Communication Studies Department who specializes in political communications.

"Second, giving the episode more attention actually rewards the bad behavior and makes it more likely that such events will occur - and be covered by journalists," Groeling said.

David first issued the dare in July. He said the jackpot would go to the first person to streak in front of the president with the name of David's website scrawled across his or her chest. The streaker also had to shout the name of the website six times within presidential earshot, and record the stunt on video. Rodriguez said he completed those requirements.

There was no mention of a White House confirmation.

On Monday, David told the Inquirer that he would have a decision on Tuesday. Tuesday came. Tuesday went.

David did not immediately return calls for comment today.

Rodriguez's lawyer said that his client holds "no animosity" towards David and is hopeful he'll see a big payday.

"That video should confirm everything," said attorney Chris Miller. "I think everyone is just trying to get on the same page."


Contact staff writer Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or samwood@phillynews.com.

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