Palin Hiding from Press
In perhaps the most bizarre turnaround this election cycle, John McCain has turned what has heretofore been one of his chief assets — a warm relationship with the press corps — into a liability by taking extraordinary measures to shield Sarah Palin from questions.
She has been a candidate for the second highest office in the land for nearly a month, but Sarah Palin has yet to hold a single press conference. Now, the McCain/Palin campaign is attempting to take an unprecedented step in their apparent effort to protect Palin from having to face impromptu questions from national reporters.
Last night, the campaign provided locations for Palin’s scheduled meetings with two world leaders and Henry Kissinger to a network TV producer, who was assigned to provide editorial content on the meetings for the five television networks. The reporter was not going to be allowed to sit in on the private meetings but would be permitted to be on hand as still and video photographers took pictures at the beginning of each meeting.
But just a little more than an hour before Palin’s first meeting was set to begin, the pool producer was notified that he would not be allowed in to the photo spray. This means that the McCain/Palin campaign would get the benefit of free pictures of Palin’s meeting with world leaders without having to face the possibility that the candidate might have to answer a question from the media.
This follows numerous campaign appearances, including in public venues, where Palin’s handlers instituted a “no questions allowed” policy.
Naturally, most media outlets are less than enthusiastic about showing up to shoot photo-ops without the accompanying right to ask questions. CBS and others, in fact, simply refuse to send photographers unless they can also send reporters. Indeed, as Kenneth Vogel reports for Politico, there may be a press boycott.
Journalists, displeased with Sarah Palin’s efforts to restrict their access to her, are threatening not to cover her events surrounding the United Nations conference here unless they’re allowed more access. The unfolding boycott is the latest development in a rocky relationship between Palin’s handlers and the press, in which the campaign has sought to tightly control her interactions with the media.
But the imbroglio began developing Tuesday morning when Palin’s handlers informed the small print press contingent covering her campaign that the print reporter designated to cover the events, Elizabeth Holmes of the Wall Street Journal, would not be allowed to cover the sprays. The campaign’s reasoning was that there were not going to be questions or statements at the sprays, so they were only appropriate for photographers and cameramen.
The campaign also at first moved to bar CNN, the television network designated for pool duty, from sending its editorial producer — basically a hybrid print/video journalist — though the campaign budged when the network threatened to withhold its cameras as well.
The campaign ultimately relented, updates to both stories noted, and allowed Holmes in to “cover” the Uribe and Kissinger meets. But, goodness, why institute such an obviously stupid policy to begin with?
Yes, Palin is relatively unseasoned in national policy issues or dealing with top-notch reporters. But, surely, she’s mastered the art of the folksy non-answer answer?
And, frankly, she’d be better off giving weak answers than angering the national press corps. As documented on this blog and elsewhere, McCain often gets a pass for giving woefully bad answers and getting major facts wrong, even on issues in his areas of expertise, precisely because of his history of candor with the press. By letting them exhaust themselves with questions, he’s built a rapport with them and gets away — quite reasonably, in my view — with slipping up sometimes. By contrast, to so obviously avoid the press is to invite them to take a no holds bar approach to coverage.