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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

By Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — After each of Hillary Clinton’s campaign events, a large group of reporters gathers on one side of the room and shouts questions at her. She rarely responds, opting instead to ignore them, not even glancing in their direction.

Clinton has largely closed herself off from media questions in the first month of her campaign. Her refusal to take questions stands in stark contrast to virtually all other candidates in both parties, who routinely wade into a pack of reporters after events, often fielding more questions in one event than Clinton has so far in her entire campaign. They also are facing reporters in one-on-one interviews and appearing on TV news programs.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on his first day on the campaign trail in New Hampshire answered 10 questions from reporters trailing him, on subjects including running against his political mentor to the theory of evolution.

Business executive Carly Fiorina, also a Republican, went from her announcement of her campaign to a conference call with reporters, taking questions for 40 minutes.

And on the day he officially announced his candidacy this week, Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who is running as a Democrat, took more questions from the media than Clinton had in the previous three weeks.

In total, Clinton has taken eight questions from the media since she entered the race April 12.

“She’s not doing it because she really doesn’t have to,” said Brad Coker, managing director at Mason-Dixon Polling & Research in Jacksonville, Fla. He called it a “smart strategy” so early in the race when independents aren’t paying attention, most Democrats support her and Republicans are busy with their own nomination fight.

“She has all the time in the world. … There’s no urgency for Hillary to get engaged,” he said.

Clinton has long had a tenuous relationship with the media, including the first time she ran for president in 2008, so her tactic isn’t exactly surprising. But not long ago she hinted that things might be different this time. She even held a pair of events before her announcement so reporters could get to know her staff.

“You know, my relationship with the press has been at times, shall we say, complicated,” Clinton said in late March when she headlined a journalism awards ceremony. “I am all about new beginnings. A new grandchild, another new hairstyle, a new email account … why not a new relationship with the press?”

Leonard Steinhorn, a political communications professor at American University in Washington, said the media need to take some responsibility for candidates refusing to engage, because reporters often ask so-called “gotcha” questions instead of substantive policy questions.

“There may be a reason Hillary Clinton has run from the media over the years,” he said. “There’s a lot of blame to go around.”

Clinton’s campaign declined to comment for this story.

Supporters stress that she has answered many questions from potential voters in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Jaime Harrison, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said Clinton has made the decision to engage with the public first and that reporters should be patient. “It’s her campaign,” he said. “This is how she wants to roll it out.”

But those events are usually closed to the public, and the six or so participants are handpicked by either the campaign or the hosts, including businesses and schools.

Doug Heye, a veteran Republican communications strategist, said Clinton’s campaign has clearly made the decision to avoid questions until the inquiries subside about her family foundation’s decision to accept foreign donations and her practice of using private email as secretary of state.

“It’s obviously a very strategic decision that they have made,” Heye said. “There are obviously a lot of questions that the Clinton campaign doesn’t want her speaking about.”

In March, a few weeks before she announced she was running for president, Clinton held a hastily organized news conference — her first formal one in more than two years — to answer questions about her email after weeks of near silence. She has not talked about the issue since.

The eight questions Clinton has answered since declaring her candidacy were about a critical book written about her family’s foundation, fundraising, the type of campaign events she is engaged in and trade.

(Lesley Clark, Sean Cockerham, David Lightman and Maria Recio in Washington and Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald contributed to this report.)

(c)2015 McClatchy Washington Bureau, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Mark Nozell via Flickr

  • Marv Nochowitz

    Republican candidates are dying for attention. They will talk to anyone one who has anything that looks like a microphone. Hillary doesn’t have to do that. She already has name recognition. Fiona who?

    • Theodora30

      That is always the strategy for those who are clearly behind in a race while front runners avoid the media and debates as much as possible to prevent gaffe, gotcha attacks, etc. (I am OK with avoiding the MSM but not at least a few debates – not that that is what Hillary is planning.) if the media does not like you they will attack whatever you do. Politico has openly admitted the media is out to take down Clinton but even liberal outlets are ignoring this.
      The innocuous headline is misleading – even the link makes it clear the article is about the media’s not Hillary’s role in her winning/losing.

      “….the national media have never been more primed to take down Hillary Clinton (and, by the same token, elevate a Republican candidate).”

      For Poltico, which is very tight with the Beltway Insiders, to make this admission should be headline news. Just like this overlooked article about the media’s deliberate weakening of Al Gore.

      • latebloomingrandma

        So much for the dominant liberal media theory.

        • Actually, it says a lot about Hillary. Even the liberal-leaning media don’t like her. They loved Obama, though.

  • Dominick Vila

    Waiting until her political platform is put together, and her positions on social and economic issues are clearly defined is not a bad idea, but it could easily backfire on her if she waits too much longer before she is willing to answer questions and take stands on issues important to voters. Hopefully, the fact that Sen. Bernie Sanders already put out a political platform, and is unambiguous on where he stands, will convince her of the need to address issues of interest and answer questions from reporters, otherwise her decision to be evasive and take a stand on issues that concern most voters is going to backfire, and will cause her more problems than all the e-mails and charitable foundations in the world.

    • itsfun

      After all the years in politics, shouldn’t she already have a platform? Makes one wonder where she does stand on issues. Is she just waiting to see what the polls say her positions should be.

    • jtxl

      She has sooo much time. The primary’s are a year away.

  • lilyhammer

    Last summer when Hillary Clinton did her book tour, her press appearances were deemed “interminable,” and the general media sentiment was that she should just go away. Now, all the Republicans (and reporters) are demanding she submit herself for questions. “Damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.”

    As for all the questions reporters (and Republicans) have about her e-mail and the Clinton family foundation, they’ve basically answered them themselves — i.e., they haven’t even been able to define what the alleged scandal is. (It’s just a joke that she has to answer Schweizer’s half-baked assertions. I want to see a nice, long, in-depth piece on how supposedly reputable newspapers decided to get into bed with that estimable gentleman.)

    I want to keep hearing from Hillary Clinton on the issues, not whatever flawed front page stories the NYT and WaPo manage to concoct out of very little.

  • ps0rjl

    Hillary is the front runner for now and she doesn’t have to take questions from reporters. When she does though, she will be very calculating in what questions she takes and how she answers them. Hillary has always had a very adversarial role regarding the press and as such she sees no positive upswing in talking to them now. Bear in mind that she is a very smart lady. She’ll talk to the press when she needs them and not before.

  • FT66

    HRC doesn’t need to answer any question from any reporter until these reporters learn what they are asking are beneficial to people. Showing up with gotcha questions in order to get her, will never find its way to reach her. HRC has nothing to lose if she doesn’t answer reporter’s questions. Debates will be coming, she will be asked whatever moderators have in mind. People will watch her, BUT reporter’s interview or sitting down with News Outlet like that one of “Fair & Balanced”, unfortunately, won’t be able to get that chance. They are at liberty to do whatever they want, if at all they can.

  • jamesowens

    anything she says to any question will be twisted and liabout by fox noise and the conservaturds so why bother.

    • jtxl

      That’s exactly what I came here to post. Hillary is doing it right this time and talking to voters about real issues that affect their lives and leaving the wolves who want to control the elections to feed on themselves. Thank You Hillary!

  • Un Ruley

    Of course she won’t talk to the press. Her handlers won’t be able to protect the faux image of Hillary that is being generated. IF there ever was an orchestrated political campaign to sell an image, not the real person, HC is nailed it.

  • radsenior

    Hey, Y’all! This Hillary’s way of saying “bucket!” Present polls has her way out front and she will be very careful! Hillary is talking to an listening to “the people.”