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“A Blatant Double Standard”: FLASHBACK; When Mitt Romney Avoided The Media — And The Media Didn’t Freak Out

Does anyone remember the rope line kerfuffle that broke out between reporters and Mitt Romney’s campaign team in May 2012? After the Republican nominee addressed supporters in St. Petersburg, Florida, campaign aides tried to restrict reporters from getting to the rope line where the candidate was greeting audience members.

As the incident unfolded, Kasie Hunt from the Associated Press tweeted, “Campaign staff and volunteers trying to physically prevent reporters from approaching the rope line to ask questions of Romney.” And from CNN’s Jim Acosta: “Romney campaign and Secret Service attempted to keep press off ropeline so no q’s to candidate on Bain.” (Bain Capital is the investment firm Romney co-founded.)

The story was definitely noted by the press and garnered some coverage, but it quickly faded from view.

Contrast that with the media wildfire that broke out over the Fourth of July weekend this summer when Hillary Clinton marched in the Gorham, New Hampshire parade. Surrounded by throngs of reporters who jumped into the parade route to cover the event, Clinton’s aides created a moving roped-off zone around Clinton to give her more space.

The maneuver produced images of journalists temporarily corralled behind a rope, which most observers agreed made for bad campaign optics.

Note that like Romney’s episode on the rope line when reporters objected to being barred from overhearing the candidate interact with voters, journalists in New Hampshire were upset they couldn’t hear Clinton greet parade spectators. But this story was hardly a minor one. It created an avalanche of coverage — nearly two weeks later journalists still reference it as a major event.

It’s interesting to note that during his 2012 campaign, Romney often distanced himself from the campaign press and provided limited access, the same allegations being made against Clinton this year. But the way the press covered the two media strategies stands in stark contrast.

That’s not to suggest Romney’s avoidance of the press wasn’t covered as news four years ago. It clearly was. But looking back, it’s impossible to miss the difference in tone, and the sheer tonnage of the coverage. Four years ago the campaign press calmly detailed Romney’s attempts to sidestep the national press (minus Fox News), versus the very emotional, often angry (“reporters are being penned off like farm animals“), and just weirdly personal dispatches regarding Hillary’s press strategy.

In a 2011 article, The Huffington Post interviewed reporters about how Romney was employing a much more closed-off press strategy compared to his 2008 campaign. The article featured quotes from Beltway journalists like The Washington Post‘s Dan Balz saying that while Romney had been more “open and available” in his 2008 campaign, during the 2012 cycle, “In general, I think they have kept him as much as possible out of the press spotlight … And I think it’s part of what has been their overall strategy, which has been to act like a frontrunner and not do a lot of interviews.”

By contrast, The New York Times, reporting on Clinton’s press relationship, recently described her as a “regal” “freak” who “seems less a presidential candidate than a historical figure, returning to claim what is rightfully hers.” Slate noted “the political press has turned noticeably hostile in the face of her silence.” And the Daily Beast wanted to know why Clinton was so “determined” to “infuriate the press.”

So when Clinton’s standoffish with the press, she’s deliberately trying to “infuriate” journalists. But when Romney was standoffish, he was just employing a frontrunner strategy.

Why the blatant double standard? Why the steeper grading curve for the Democrat?

Are the Romney and Clinton press scenarios identical? Probably not. But they do seem awfully similar. Note that in February 2012, ABC News reported that “Romney last held a press conference in Atlanta on Feb. 8, and has not done so again since. Wednesday is the two week mark.” Two months later, not much had changed: “Reporters yelled questions at Romney yesterday on the rope line after a speech prebutting this summer’s Democratic National Convention — to no avail. Romney has not taken questions from the press since March 16 in Puerto Rico.”

That dispatch came on April 19, which meant at the time Romney hadn’t taken a question from the national press in more than a month, and that was during the heart of the Republican primary season. But where was The Washington Post’s running clock to document the last time Romney fielded a question, and The New York Times special section to feature hypothetical questions to ask Romney if and when he next spoke to the press?

When Romney ignored the national media for more than a month in 2012 the press mostly shrugged. When Hillary did something similar this year, the press went bonkers, sparking “an existential crisis among the national press corps,” according to Slate.

For whatever reason, the Beltway press signaled a long time ago that the press was going to be a central topic during the Clinton campaign and the press was going to write a lot about how the press felt about Clinton’s relationship with the press. (Media critic Jay Rosen has dismissed some of the media’s campaign complaints as being nonsensical.)

We’ve certainly never seen anything like this in modern campaigns. And it certainly did not happen with Romney four years ago.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Senior Fellow, Media Matters for America; The Blog, The Huffington Post, July 16, 2015

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Media, National Press Corp | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Clear Stake In The Issue”: The Media Is Obsessed With Hillary’s Emails Because The Media Is Obsessed With Stories About Itself

That the email controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton is still raging after nearly two weeks has awakened in Democrats a familiar dread. Nobody expected Republicans to give Clinton an easy time, but some of her supporters clearly hoped that time and experience had changed the way the press would adjudicate scandal accusations, or at least had diluted old suspicions so that the Clintons, their political enemies, and the media wouldn’t combine to form such a toxic brew.

As TPM’s Josh Marshall wrote, “the email story is shaping up to be another classic Clinton scandal. On the merits, the hyperventilation seems way out ahead of the actual facts…. And yet here we are againwith an almost infinite, process-driven scandal that can easily continue on into a Clinton presidency, if there is one…. Always a dance, always drama.”

The ingredients of this particular drama lend themselves to unending innuendo and recrimination. Clinton and her lawyers controlled all of her State Department–era emails, decided amongst themselves which to hand over to the government, and will presumably resist all GOP efforts to peek into the remainder, assuming they’re still retrievable. Republicans can thus whip the paranoid/birther contingent of their coalition into a state of permanent suspicion by projecting whatever malfeasance they want on to the missing emails.

But I think the nature of the email story makes it a poor proxy for gauging the relationship Clinton’s campaign will have with the press going forward. Keep in mind that this isn’t the first Clinton error Republicans have tried to exploit. When the press has taken GOP Benghazi accusations seriously, it’s gotten burned. Republicans have more credibly tried to raise questions about Clinton’s big dollar speeches and Clinton Foundation fundraising practices, but none of these stories have captured the press’ interest quite like the email controversy.

What distinguishes the email controversy is that it intersects in obvious ways with the professional interests of the same political press corps that will cover Clinton throughout the presidential campaign. It’s such big news because the news itself has a clear stake in the issue. The national press corps doesn’t generally expend a tremendous amount of energy holding senior bureaucrats to the letter of records-keeping protocols, or worrying about how much public business government officials are conducting on private email accountsthough perhaps they should.

But when reporters learned that the most public and politically aspirant of these officials had it in her power to deprive them of records to which they should be entitled, those reporters, quite predictably, responded not just as reporters but as representatives of their trade. This isn’t just any old process story, but one which practically invites reporters to miscalibrate in expressing industry outrage.

It’s also an old phenomenon, and one Clinton really should have anticipated. She hadn’t left Foggy Bottom for more than five months when the same press corps erupted over the revelation that, while conducting a leak investigation at the State Department, the DOJ had used a secret warrant to seize Fox News reporter James Rosen’s emails.

The press was correct to criticize that particular tactic, but in so doing it revealed a kind of shallowness about itself. It didn’t object to DOJ intimidation per se, but to the fact that a reporter rather than a mere civilian had been the target. If Rosen had been an imam in Michigan or a political dissident, the White House briefing room would have been mostly silent about it.

Instead they made it front page news, and forced the administration to examine itself to such great effect that Attorney General Eric Holder now considers the DOJ’s conduct toward Rosen his greatest regret. My hunch is that Hillary Clinton will have to put herself through a similar reckoning before the press lets go of the email story.

Assuming she does, though, I don’t think we can say with any certainty that it will set a tone for the media’s overall coverage of Clinton’s campaign. And as a political issue of its own, the email controversy will probably prove to be self-limiting. Republican presidential hopefuls like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have email problems of their ownwhich, unsurprisingly, are a much bigger deal to in-state reporters in Florida and Wisconsin than to the national press corps that has been covering Clinton. Moreover, if Republicans in Congress allow their questions about Clinton’s emails to morph into a witch hunt, they’ll turn her into a martyr.

This particular Clinton drama is sui generis. Which means we’ll have to wait until the next imbroglio to learn whether the media and the Clintons will get along better this time around than they did in the 1990s.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, March 16, 2015

March 19, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Media, National Press Corp | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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