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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

   

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