The Clinton campaign’s relationship with the media got a little more strained over the weekend when campaign staffers used a rope line to corral journalists covering her participation in the Fourth of July parade in Gorham, New Hampshire. It looked more like a rodeo than a celebration of America’s Independence from British rule.
New York Times reporter Peter Baker, appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation, summed up the media’s feelings on the episode:
It reinforces our role as the herd. It’s unfortunate for her, because I think it definitely provides an image that looks scripted, it looks controlled … She’s a very cautious candidate at the moment. She’s not out there answering a lot of questions. You saw that picture of Jeb Bush wading into the crowd, and even if the questions are uncomfortable, he’s going to answer them. She has not given that impression, and the rope doesn’t help that image.
This move probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to journalists, as Clinton has barely spoken to the press since launching her campaign in April. She has been very carefully managed during this period of time to limit media access to her.
Baker wasn’t the only reporter to criticize Clinton for the rope line.
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) July 4, 2015
Nor was the criticism limited to journalists.
Van Jones, who was Obama’s green jobs guru, admitted that Clinton made a big mistake, during a discussion of the incident on CNN’s State of the Union:
I love Hillary Clinton but this is the worst visual metaphor. Before, you could say she’s not talking to reporters but you can’t cover not talking. You can show this image over and over again and it’s awful.
The Clinton campaign responded to the media firestorm, telling CNN: “While the GOP might want to spin a good yarn on this, let’s not get tied up in knots. We wanted to accommodate the press, allow (Clinton) greet voters (sic), and allow the press to be right there in the parade with her, as opposed to preset locations.”
That’s a bit different than what CNN’s Dan Merica reported on Saturday when he wrote that “campaign aides said they brought the rope out because they feared the press scrum of around a dozen reporters and photojournalists would obstruct the view of New Hampshire voters attending the parade.”
The New York Press Club also criticized Clinton in a press release issued this morning:
The New York Press Club condemns the ever-increasing practice of walling off journalists (figuratively and literally) from public figures at public events.
‘There’s a long history of journalists walking alongside candidates and officeholders in holiday parades,’ said Press Club President Steve Scott. ‘Included in that long history is a tradition of unhindered, on-the-record press access to our public officials.’
‘As president of the New York Press Club, I make no comment about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. But, I do call on Mrs. Clinton and all candidates to provide journalists with the access they need to properly do their jobs.’
Incidents such as what happened at the New Hampshire parade give journalists one more question to ask, once they free themselves from their rope corral: ‘Why fence us out?’
Clinton’s press avoidance strategy is directly linked to unanswered questions about her involvement in the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, controversial donations to the Clinton Foundation, and her private email server while she was Secretary of State—questions that are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.