Hot Mic Moment? Reporters Heard Planning Questions for Romney Before Presser
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney during a press conference Wednesday issued a statement on the recent attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East and the White House’s handling of the situation.
Afterwards, he took questions from members of the press.
As noted by National Review Online, all but one of the questions asked of Gov. Romney had to do with his “tone” and/or whether he thought it was a good idea to criticize the administration’s initial response to the attack on the Cairo embassy.
Not a single reporter asked Romney what he thinks the U.S. should do going forward.
“[N]one of the questions asked Romney to give details or be more specific about what he thinks the United States should do,” NRO’s Katrina Trinko writes.
“[T]oday’s press conference was really an example of how the media sometimes just doesn’t deserve [access to a presidential candidate]. Let political consultants talk about the timing and tone of the statement. The candidate should be grilled on policy, on issues, on what he thinks is the right course going forward, not politics and strategy,” she adds.
Not long after writing that entry, The Right Scoop posted a video that appears to show that, yes, some of the reporters waiting to hear Gov. Romney’s statement on the embassy attacks coordinated their questions specifically to address his “tone” and his timing and not his policy:
Here is the transcription from The Right Scoop:
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: …pointing out that the Republicans… *unintelligible* …Obama….
CBS REPORTER: That’s the question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: *unintelligible*
CBS REPORTER: Yeah that’s the question. I would just say do you regret your question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Your question? Your statement?
CBS REPORTER: I mean your statement. Not even the tone, because then he can go off on…
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And then if he does, if we can just follow up and say ‘but this morning your answer is continuing to sound…’ – *becomes unintelligble*
CBS REPORTER: You can’t say that..
CBS REPORTER: I’m just trying to make sure that we’re just talking about, no matter who he calls on we’re covered on the one question.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you stand by your statement or regret your statement?
To be fair, it could be a simple conversation between a few of reporters making sure a specific question gets answered. However, considering NRO raised the point that every presser question was on this topic, it’s worth contemplating.
As one who worked in the White House, it should be said that reporters do sometimes coordinate to get a sense of what they want out of a press conference.
There’s nothing undemocratic or “corrupt” about journalists working together to decide what a story line is. But that story line can turn out to be a very biased line — as in expressing disbelief that Romney is “doubling down” on his Obama critique. Reporters sometimes mock the idea of a media “conspiracy,” but chats like these are certainly collaboration.
People often expect that reporters are competitive in gaining a scoop — but time in the press corps can convince you that reporters seem more nervous about straying from the journalism of the pack. They may be competitive in booking guests, but they’re often not competitive in establishing the theme of the day. They tend to unite on that.
What matters is the end product — were the reporters fair in their choice of questions?
Well, were the reporters fair? Considering the fact that almost every question focused on Romney’s “timing” and not on specific policies steps he’d take, is it any surprise many conservatives believe there was an agenda at play?
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Front page photo source courtesy the AP.
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