couldn't get one or couldn't get one in time?
There's a huge distinction between being rejected and not getting a visa in time because of a backlog of requests. I don't know if there are restrictions as to how far in advance you are able to request a visa. I poked around and it seems the main form is the DS-160(which I helped someone with a couple of years ago) though I don't see at first glance anyway whether or not you have to file within X number of days of travel.
The article implies the person was not (yet at least) rejected they just hadn't gotten the visa processed in time for the event.