Republican presidential primary candidate Texas Rep. Ron Paul had another unfriendly exchange with CNN Monday, as The New York Times reports that the candidate ended an interview at a campaign stop in Hollis when CNN reporter Dana Bash asked about his ability to connect with voters in New Hampshire. Top campaign aide Jesse Benton stepped in when Paul was asked a question about a chaotic incident earlier in the day, and the Times reports that Benton “could be seen — and heard — shouting at Ms. Bash as Mr. Paul walked away.”
According to The Times, the question that instigated Benton’s intervention was in regards to an incident that had occured a few hours earlier, when a middle-aged woman had become angry with Paul for not spending enough time talking to voters at a crowded diner in Manchester. The woman was reportedly an Obama voter in 2008 and said that she was open to voting for Paul. She became angry, however, after Paul’s S.U.V. allegedly drove off while she shouted for him to return to the diner and meet her mother.
As seen in the video of the stand-off with Bash, Benton ends the interview when the reporter questions the episode, blaming the high volume of news media at the crowded diner for causing the candidate to make an early exit.
“You the media did this to her,” Paul said to Bash in regards to the woman in the diner. “She should have been furious with you.”
Paul’s patience appeared visibly strained following the tense exchange. Slate reports that Benton stormed out of the event with Bash behind him,”announcing how annoyed the campaign was with the network.”
The Hill reports that Benton released a statement Monday afternoon explaining the “mob-like atmosphere” at the diner that morning:
“’This morning, he attempted to hold an event at Moe Joe’s Diner in Manchester, to speak with patrons and supporters in the last push before the New Hampshire primary. Unfortunately, Dr. Paul and his family were forced to leave early after over 120 members of the press created a mob-like atmosphere that was deemed to be unsafe for the candidate, Moe Joe’s customers, and reporters themselves,’ Benton said.
‘The campaign had planned to cover our normal degree of media interest, which is always ample. However, a significant increase in the press corps, largely driven by an influx of foreign journalists, exceeded all expectations.’
He went on to describe an incident in which a reporter shoved aside Paul’s wife, allegedly telling her to ‘get out of the way.’
‘While we are very welcoming of media coverage and grateful for the interest in Dr. Paul and his campaign, basic safety simply must come first. On behalf of Dr. Paul and his campaign team, I would like to apologize to customers at Moe Joe’s who may have been distressed by this incident, and extend our gratitude and apologies to the owners, who were kind enough to have us,’ Benton said.”
The Times reports that Bash apologized to Paul’s wife for bringing up the incident from earlier in the day, following the exchange with Benton.
Paul was accused of abruptly ending an interview with CNN reporter Gloria Borger in December, appearing to have angrily cut the conversation short when pressed about his involvement with controversial newsletters published under his name.
“It’s been going on 20 years that I’ve been pestered about this and CNN does it every time,” Paul said at the time. “When are you going to wear yourself out?”
After an uncut version of the interview was posted online, many criticized CNN’s editing, claiming that Rep. Paul did not walk out of the interview in the manner originally suggested.