Romney Press Aide Loses His Cool In Poland

Mitt Romney’s Press aide Rick Gurka had a run in with the press today just before the candidate’s speech in Warsaw:

Warsaw, Poland (CNN) - The traveling press secretary for Mitt Romney lost his cool and cursed at reporters who attempted to ask questions of the Republican presidential candidate in a public plaza near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw Tuesday.

After Romney paid his respects to Poland’s war dead and shook hands with a small gathering of the nation’s military veterans, the GOP contender walked approximately 100 yards away from the memorial as he chatted with Warsaw’s mayor.

As Romney made his way to his vehicle, reporters attempted to shout questions to the candidate. The former Massachusetts governor, who has answered only three questions from his traveling press corps during a week-long overseas trip, ignored the queries. Romney did sit down for multiple interviews during his foreign swing, including with CNN’s Piers Morgan and Wolf Blitzer. Romney also spoke with NBC News, CBS News, ABC News and Fox News during his trip.

When members of the press tried to ask Romney about some of the mishaps on his trip, his traveling press secretary Rick Gorka verbally dressed down reporters.

Here’s how it went down:

CNN: “Governor Romney are you concerned about some of the mishaps of your trip?

NYT: “Governor Romney do you have a statement for the Palestinians?

Washington Post: “What about your gaffes?

NYT: “Governor Romney do you feel that your gaffes have overshadowed your foreign trip?”

CNN: “Governor Romney just a few questions sir, you haven’t taken but three questions on this trip from the press!

Gorka: “Show some respect”

NYT: “We haven’t had another chance to ask a question…”

Gorka: “Kiss my ass. This is a Holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.”

Gorka apparently also told a Politico reporter to “Shove it” before apologizing to all involved at some point in the future. Gurka’s choice of words notwithstanding, it does strike me that the press corps was being just a bit disrespectful considering that the purpose of Romney’s visit to the memorial was to lay a wreath at the site. Would they do the same thing at the Tomb Of The Unknowns in Arlington, Virginia? Yea, Gurka was wrong to lose his cool but the press should have been more respectful of where they were at the time. Nonetheless, the story is getting no small degree of attention but, as with many things the political press covers, far more than it deserves.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. PJ says:

    Gorka: “Kiss my ass. This is a Holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.”

    So, I guess Gorka didn’t approve of Romney’s photo op on Tisha b’Av?

  2. @PJ:

    I haven’t heard a single non-partisan Jewish person say that there was anything wrong or disrespectful about Romney’s visit to the Western Wall

  3. mantis says:

    Do not disgrace the holy parking lot!

  4. C. Clavin says:

    Agreed…this is a silly thing…and the guy has personally apologized to those involved.
    But really…you cannot blame him…after the debacle this trip has been…any PR person is gonna be a bit stressed.

  5. SKI says:

    @C. Clavin: THIS!

    The story isn’t the exchange but that the PR flack (of all people) screwed up and lost his cool.

    Well, that and the sad reality that as campaigns (both sides) stop allowing pressers and candidate interaction, the press, which like the rest of nature abhors a vacuum, try to justify their going on the trip with reporting on anything they possibly can, anything that isn’t standard stump speech they have heard a a zillion times.

  6. rudderpedals says:

    Gurka’s responsible for PR disasters at every stop on the trip. By all rights he should soon be out of a job. He’s entitled to a going-away outburst.

  7. I will say this, and it goes for all politicians: the reason that the press are at events like this, and might be prone to be less respectful than they should be, is because a politician is using a sacred site for a political photo op. As such, admonitions from the politician’s crew seem more than a little hypocritical.

    If Romney wanted a solemn moment at a solemn site, perhaps he shouldn’t have invited the press along to take pictures of him, yes?

  8. Anderson says:

    Romney has been dissing the press all through his trip, so they’re going to ask questions all the time.

    If Romney were less cowardly, he would hold pressers often and make the press happy. Good candidates use the media to help them win. Bad ones shun the press.

  9. anjin-san says:

    Ducking the press does seem to be something of a habit for Romney. Is he up for anything besides lob ball interviews on Fox or not?

  10. al-Ameda says:

    This is some of the best comedy writing I’ve seen in years:

    CNN: “Governor Romney are you concerned about some of the mishaps of your trip?
    NYT: “Governor Romney do you have a statement for the Palestinians?
    Washington Post: “What about your gaffes?
    NYT: “Governor Romney do you feel that your gaffes have overshadowed your foreign trip?”
    CNN: “Governor Romney just a few questions sir, you haven’t taken but three questions on this trip from the press!
    Gorka: “Show some respect”
    NYT: “We haven’t had another chance to ask a question…”
    Gorka: “Kiss my ass. This is a Holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.”

  11. Jeremy R says:

    There’s a valuable lesson in this for Romney. You ignore your traveling press corps at your own risk. Both Obama and Mccain, in 2008, for different reasons, had their own rebuffs from their traveling press. In Romney’s case he’s kept them at arms length since everything started going south in the UK:

    http://abcnews.go.com/m/blogEntry?id=16892794

    Romney last took questions – three – from the traveling press corps Thursday in London. Romney did not address the media that’s flying with him on any of the three charter flights – two that lasted more than four hours – either. Romney has conducted several television interviews during the trip.

    Even Fox’s reporters were starting to get restless:
    http://gretawire.foxnewsinsider.com/2012/07/30/notes-from-travel-with-gov-romney-in-poland/

    There has been no press access to Governor Romney since we landed in Poland. We (press) are in a holding pattern (I can’t help but feel a bit like the press is a modified petting zoo since we are trapped in a bus while Polish citizens take pictures of us.)

  12. Dean says:

    @anjin-san:Ducking the press does seem to be something of a habit for Romney. Is he up for anything besides lob ball interviews on Fox or not?

    You must have missed this part of the article from CNN: “Romney did sit down for multiple interviews during his foreign swing, including with CNN’s Piers Morgan and Wolf Blitzer. Romney also spoke with NBC News, CBS News, ABC News and Fox News during his trip.”

    Romney was hit pretty hard by Brian Williams on a couple of topics (tax returns, for example), so he has taken more than “lob balls.” We’re all still waiting for the hard-hitting questions to President Obama.

  13. DC Loser says:
  14. Jeremy R says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    @DC Loser:

    Other’s disagree

    “Other’s” being true partisans like EIC’s Noah Pollak and WSJ’s resident Romney cheerleader, Jennifer Rubin.

  15. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Dean: As Doug has informed us in the recent past, we should be very very concerned when a President or, in this case, potential President, ignores spontaneous press questions in lieu of interviews, which are the most controllable form of interaction with the press. They simply cannot be considered to have the same level of accountability.

  16. There’s a time and a place for questions, Grommitt and that was neither the time nor the place. If those reporters had any sense of history, they would’ve understood that.

  17. Jeremy R says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    There’s a time and a place for questions, Grommitt and that was neither the time nor the place.

    What, in the middle of a public plaza?

  18. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis: By that logic, it was neither the time nor the place for a campaign photo-op…

  19. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I see. So his only public appearances since Thursday have been at political and religious icons?

  20. @SKI:

    What part of “he was there to lay a wreath at the war memorial” don’t you understand?

  21. @Doug Mataconis:

    What part of “he was there to lay a wreath at the war memorial” don’t you understand?

    Well yes and no,

    He was there to to lay a wreath at the war memorial so he could be photographed by the press doing so.

    If he wanted to pay respects for the sake of paying respects he could have done so on a non-press tour trip, yes?

  22. Jeremy R says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    What part of “he was there to lay a wreath at the war memorial” don’t you understand?

    The press didn’t shout questions during Romney’s photo-op. He’d finished and was crossing a public plaza on the way to his motorcade. I imagine that Romney flack was demonstrating his respect for the solemn location with his, “Kiss my ass”es and “Shove it!”s.

  23. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Well, it is politics after all. And paying respect in this manner is apparently traditional for American political leaders who visit.

    Yea, they want pictures of him doing stuff like this. But then that’s why Obama went to Europe in 2008 himself. Heck one could say the same thing about the President and similar gestures on foreign trips

  24. @Jeremy R:

    I already gave my opinion of what the aide did. That doesn’t justify obnoxious behavior by the press corps, though

  25. @Doug Mataconis: Yes, and I would say the same thing–especially in terms of campaign stops.

    I am not sure how this bolsters your position.

  26. Septimius says:

    I just want to make sure I’m clear on this.

    Reporter shouts question to Obama at a press conference = rude reporter.

    Reporter shouts question to Romney at a memorial for fallen soldiers = Romney’s fault for not answering enough of their questions earlier in the week.

    Got it.

  27. Well, my position is that reporters shouting questions is, generally, just idiotic in general. And doing so under these circumstances was disrespectful.

    But then, we have all spend more time discussing this incident in the comment thread than it actually deserves

  28. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I haven’t heard a single non-partisan Jewish person say that there was anything wrong or disrespectful about Romney’s visit to the Western Wall

    Other’s disagree

    http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/07/30/did-romney-exploit-a-jewish-holiday-tisha-b-av/

    So, Jewish partisan sources are ok when you’re arguing that there wasn’t anything wrong or disrespectful, but not when you are arguing that there was?
    Weird.

  29. de stijl says:

    @Septimius:

    Reporter shouts question to Obama at a press conference = rude reporter.

    Reporter shouts question to Romney at a memorial for fallen soldiers = Romney’s fault for not answering enough of their questions earlier in the week.

    Neil Munro shouted his question during Obama’a prepared statement. The analogous situation would have been if the reporters had shouted their questions while Romney was actually laying the wreath instead of waiting until he was walking back to his vehicle.

    Had Munro waited until Obama was finished with his statement to shout his questions, that would have been analogous to what happened in Warsaw.

    Got it?

  30. Buzz Buzz says:

    I seem to recall that the OTB drones had a different opinion on whether reporters asking impromptu questions at photo ops was proper behavior or outrageously unacceptable (and raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaacist!) back when Obama was asked an inconvenient question about his illegal immigration policy at a Rose Garden photo op a month or so ago.

    But I guess that’s why no one ever accuses the hive of intellectual consistency.

    Or anything intellectual at all, come to think of it.

  31. DRS says:

    Doug, if these issues are so unimportant – why do you start posts about them? And why do you only declare they’re unimportant when the majority of posters don’t agree with you?

  32. de stijl says:

    @Buzz Buzz:

    Check the comment directly above yours.

  33. Davebo says:

    But then, we have all spend more time discussing this incident in the comment thread than it actually deserves

    Crab walking brought to a new height! “I brought it up but you should just STFU!”

  34. Neil Hudelson says:

    So while I agree that Romney’s aide handled it poorly, and that this was, after all, a photo op, here is my one thought…

    Hey press! How about you stop asking 30,000 questions about “gaffes” for every one real question?! Maybe Romney and all candidates would treat you with a little more respect if you stopped acting like your job is to jump on every miscue as if this was an episode of Laguna Hills and you are a reporter on E? You are the fourth estate, for shits sake. Start acting like a goddamned professional corps, which you claim to be, and treat your f-ing job with a little respect.

  35. mantis says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I would like to second Neil’s comment. I think Romney’s man was being quite stupid, but the press is just embarrassing. Why scream out “What about your gaffes?” when you could just as easily ask why Romney would praise Israel’s health care system but be against our own. Or ask about his position on missile defense in eastern Europe. Or many other policy-specific things that Romney has talked about or referenced while on his trip.

  36. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Hell, this is nothing. Just wait until October, especially if Obama’s internal polling is saying the clock is about to strike midnight. The liberal media is on the verge of a total meltdown and once we get closer to Election Day the dam will burst.

  37. mantis says:

    Tsar, you’re an idiot.

  38. J-Dub says:

    Here’s how it seems to go: Romney answers question from the press and says something stupid. That night, someone writes down what he should have said and Romney memorizes it and regurgitates it the next day. Romney stops answering questions from the press for a while. Romney forgets to ignore the press and it all starts over again.

  39. An Interested Party says:

    But then, we have all spend more time discussing this incident in the comment thread than it actually deserves…

    This from the person who wrote the original piece that all the comments are flowing from…to paraphrase Tsar Nicholas, that is so ironic that I’m not sure that Doug could even grasp the irony…

    The liberal media is on the verge of a total meltdown and once we get closer to Election Day the dam will burst.

    More conservative victimhood…Jan certainly isn’t alone…

  40. Gurka’s choice of words notwithstanding, it does strike me that the press corps was being just a bit disrespectful considering that the purpose of Romney’s visit to the memorial was to lay a wreath at the site.

    Doug, you have got to be kidding. What you call being “disrespectful” is what’s actually called “doing your job” if you’re a journalist. It is not the job of the press to be “respectful” of a political candidate’s campaign photo ops — in fact, the press’s job is exactly the opposite: to ask questions that the person being questioned very likely doesn’t want to answer.

    And this is not even to mention the fact that neither Romney nor the adviser who told the reporters to “shove it” actually cared two shits about where they were, the “sanctity” of the location, or what Romney was or was not doing there. Obviously, that was the excuse they used for not answering the questions — questions Romney had not given reporters a chance to ask anywhere or any time else.

    If Romney does not want reporters to ask him pointed questions at Polish shrines, he perhsps would be well advised to make himself available to the press instead of inventing excuses to avoid having to answer uncomfortable questions.

  41. @Doug Mataconis:

    I haven’t heard a single non-partisan Jewish person say that there was anything wrong or disrespectful about Romney’s visit to the Western Wall

    That’s because you define “partisan” in the context of Romney visiting the Western Wall on Tisha b’Av to mean “thinks it was disrespectful and/or opportunistic for Romney to visit the Wailing Wall on Tisha b’Av.”

    Those Jewish persons who either think there was nothing disrespectful about Romney visiting the Western Wall on Tisha b’Av, or do not express an opinion one way or the other, are “nonpartisan.”

    I sometimes wonder why you never seem to be embarrassed at offering explanations like this one, which are so totally transparent.

  42. @Dean:

    You must have missed this part of the article from CNN: “Romney did sit down for multiple interviews during his foreign swing, including with CNN’s Piers Morgan and Wolf Blitzer. Romney also spoke with NBC News, CBS News, ABC News and Fox News during his trip.”

    I don’t know who was doing the interviews at NBC, CBS, or ABC, but Piers Morgan and Wolf Blitzer are not journalists, and Fox News is not, actually, a news outlet. I don’t know that there are any journalists working there.

  43. @Doug Mataconis:

    Doug, you are to laugh at. Commentary is among the most partisan Jewish media sites there are. That Commentary disagrees with Jeffrey Goldberg is obviously true, but do not pretend that the writers or editors there are “nonpartisan.” I mean, because that’s just beyond absurd.