Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign team disputes the notion they have been keeping the press at arm’s length.
On Friday, two top Clinton staffers, campaign manager Robby Mook and communications director Jennifer Palmieri were asked about the candidate’s relationship with the media when they spoke at Politico’s Playbook Cocktails event in New York City.
There have been complaints from the campaign trail press corps about access and Politico’s Mike Allen asked the pair about the criticism there has been a “lockdown” on Clinton.
Palmieri emphasised the fact the campaign has been focusing on connecting with voters in early primary states. She also said Clinton’s team feels they won’t ever be able to give the media the “right” answer to various questions.
“I don’t think that voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada feel like there’s been a lockdown,” Palmieri said. “My view about this is, I love the press, as you know. Most of you all are very smart, a lot of you all are my friends. We have a lot of particularly talented people who are covering Hillary … but what I also know is we’re never going to give you the right — were never going to give quite the answer you want.”
Palmieri went on to describe an example of how the Clinton campaign thinks they have been unable to satisfy the press. Since announcing her presidential bid in April, Clinton has been focused on relatively small-scale events with voters in early primary states. Palmieri characterised this as a response to criticism from the reporters that Clinton is not “relatable.”
“For example, when, I remember, I started this campaign, ‘Hillary Clinton’s not relatable, every time you see her, she’s on a tarmac, or she’s getting on a big plane, you know, flying to some other country or she’s on a big stage. She can’t talk to anyone,'” Palmieri said paraphrasing her take on complaints from the press. “So, now we do these small round tables, one-on-one interaction, it’s really great, she gets a lot out of it.”
However, Palmieri claimed the media has responded to this approach by making the opposite critique and asking when Clinton will have larger events.
“It’s like, ‘When is she going to talk to a big crowd?'” Palmieri said.
Palmieri went on to claim Clinton has regularly taken questions from the press.
“When she has been out campaigning, she takes — she usually takes questions like every other day,” Palmieri said.
“Oh, come on,” Allen replied.
At one point following her launch, Clinton did not take questions for about a month.
In spite of this, Clinton’s campaign staff insisted she has taken weekly questions while on the trail at the Politico event.
“To me, it’s not about are we not hiding that week,” Mook said. “We’re running a multi month campaign.”
Clinton’s campaign has said the first few weeks following her April announcement were a “ramp up” phase. On Friday, Palmieri said the speech Clinton is having on Saturday will begin “the campaign.”
“Welcome to the campaign,” she said.
Along with criticism the campaign has not taken enough questions, Clinton’s team has been criticised for relying on off record or background communications with reporters.
At the Politico event, Business Insider asked Mook and Palmieri why Clinton’s team regularly refuses to go on record with the press.
“Sort of across the board, political spokespeople, you default to that,” Palmieri said of off record communications. “It’s something we probably do too much and it’s something we’re probably going to do better on.”
Mook piped in with a joke.
“That’s on background,” he said referring to Palmieri’s response.
Allen continued to push the pair on whether the campaign would communicate more on record. Palmieri insisted they would and noted she was speaking publicly at the Politico event.
“You shouldn’t default to that,” Palmieri said. “And we are proud of the campaign and the work we do … so we’ll talk on the record.”
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