A report from Buzzfeed's McKay Coppins hints that there's more than meets the eye when it comes to Mitt Romney, and what the media aren't reporting is a softer side of the GOP presidential hopeful. But is it the media's fault or the fault of a campaign trying to control the candidate's public image?
DENVER, Colo. — Mitt Romney cheerfully meandered back past the blue divider curtain on his campaign jet last Friday carrying a large bag of beef jerky. He doled out the giant hunks of dried meat to reporters one by one, engaging in the kind of innuendo-laced banter common in the back of the plane but widely thought to be absent from the front. At one point, a journalist who received a smaller piece of jerky complained that he had "jerky envy," prompting an outburst of laughter from the candidate.
The exchange raised more than a few eyebrows when it hit Twitter and the blogosphere: Funny, loose, a little racy — who was this guy?
But for Romney's traveling press corps, the jerky party was just the latest in a series of similar casual encounters with the candidate — most of which are joined by reporters on the condition that they are "off the record," meaning nothing the candidate does or says can be reported.
Eager for access to the famously reserved candidate, reporters have generally agreed to the campaign's terms for these "OTRs," which have long been common practice on presidential campaigns. But the resulting interactions — rare, unfettered conversations with an unusually candid Romney — have left many of the traveling campaign reporters frustrated that they're unable capture a side of the candidate that he keeps hidden from public view.
"The OTRs are annoying," said one reporter who covers Romney. "I mean, I'm glad we do them, but it's like, we can't show a side of him that exists."