Over the weekend, a heap of reporters went to Iowa to Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin‘s steak fry to mingle with the Clintons. Or, at least try.
LAT‘s Maeve Reston complained sharply on Twitter about being penned up. Bill and Hillary Clinton grilled steaks, many scribes fussed, but didn’t bother to speak to them.
“If reporters are going to get shoved in a press pen for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, sign me up to cover the GOP right now,” she said. … “Grill otherwise known as ‘The Pen’ #ReportersTreatedAsAnimals.”
She later added, “I thought I just heard Bill Clinton say something about he and Hillary were going to miss their plane. I find that somewhat unlikely.”
At one point Reston even seemed to be helping Clintonland out, (in a prickly, public sort of way), saying, “Note to Clinton handlers, her mic is still hot on CSPAN.”
Washington Examiner‘s Rebecca Berg also stuck it to the Clintons. At 3:26 p.m. she wrote, “Press waited for an hour and a half to be ignored by the Clintons as they grilled for five minutes.”
Politico‘s Maggie Haberman also joined the bandwagon: “[Bloomberg Politics‘] @MarkHalperin calls out to Harkin, asks if the Clintons are having trouble hearing him today (as they are us).” She tweeted the above photograph, noting, “The other grill” at the steak fry.
And NYT‘s Michael Barbaro: “I sure hope enterprising reporters get over that fence: not sure how one can portray HRCs return to retail politics from 20 feet away.”
ABC’s Jonathan Karl snapped, “Retail politics? Just some of the media awaiting Hillary’s streak-frying photo op.”
At 3:33 p.m. ABC Political Director Rick Klein remarked, “For the record, press was close enough to smell #harkinsteakfry meat, but not for Clintons to hear shouted questions.”
One issue at hand: the vast number of reporters there. “So much press at #HarkinSteakFry that they ran out of press passes,” wrote Jason Noble, a Statehouse reporter for The Des Moines Register, flashing a makeshift press pass over his gingham button-down. He had sarcastic commentary: “They moved the press pack up 20 feet, so we got that going for us.”
How else to handle the Fourth Estate but stick them in a pen like pigs? Isn’t that D.C. publicist extraordinaire Tammy Haddad‘s modus operandi at her annual, nauseating White House Correspondents’ Association garden brunch? The “rules” are once inside the party, conversations are off the record. (Eye roll. Then why invite a town full of reporters in the first place?)
Control. Control. Control.
Soon enough, the Clintons wandered over to chat, with many charmed that Bill Clinton stayed behind to talk with reporters as his wife, the possible presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, moved on.
By 3:44 p.m. Berg sang a new tune: “That was a classic Bill and Hillary display,” she wrote. “Hillary took a few press questions and bolted; aides couldn’t drag Bill away.”
And CNN’s Dan Merica: “Someone asks Bill Clinton how he is doing. His response: ‘As long as I am still married to her, I am doing good,’ he says of HRC.”
The Clintons seemed to realize the errors of their ways with the media (or else their handlers took notice and got their shit together.) “Hillary & Bill came back for impromptu presser (after most media left). Dismissed @jonkarl‘s q about about 2016,” wrote Liz Kreutz. “Said now it’s about 2014.”
Reston ultimately semi-walked back her complaints. Although she did point to the power of Twitter and suggested that maybe the bad press wooed them to open up the channels of communication, something for which the Hillary camp isn’t known.
“Since the Clintons came over to talk to press at Steak Fry, I withdraw my press pen commentary,” she wrote. “Altho I still don’t think they are necessary.”
NYT‘s Nick Confessore suggested that maybe all the complaining was useful. “It may have been because of such commentary that they came over,” he wrote.
Still, Reston’s frustration remained: “The power of Twitter,” she replied. “Or not. Who knows. Sigh.”