The Gore-Ing of Mitt Romney: Poisonous cycle of gotcha coverage and access restrictions recalls an earlier campaign
The profane confrontation between one of Mitt Romney’s press aides and reporters at the end of the presumptive GOP nominee’s difficult overseas trip has brought new attention to the way the 2012 race is being covered in the press—in particular, the media’s embarrassing gaffe obsession and the incentives it provides for campaigns to place ever-greater limitations on access to their candidates in unscripted settings.
This dynamic has been especially pathological for Romney. Politico’s Jonathan Martin best captured how the presumptive GOP nominee’s relationship with the media has devolved into a self-perpetuating cycle of gaffes and access restrictions:
Without anything of substance to say [in Europe] beyond what he’s repeatedly said in the U.S., he created something of a vacuum that he then filled with his own gaffes.
And he made the situation worse by effectively hiding from his traveling press corps for much of his trip, taking three questions at the beginning but then not holding a single other press conference. He conducted a series of TV interviews but offered significantly less access than Obama did on his overseas campaign trip four years ago.
Romney is in the midst of a harmful, self-reinforcing cycle in which he commits a gaffe, grows angry at the press for covering it and punishes them by refusing to take questions because he doesn’t want to be asked about the gaffe.
This has created an almost toxic relationship between Romney and his traveling press corps.
While the gaffe patrol isn’t the only reason that the presidential campaigns are placing such tight limitations on the press, any discussion of those issues should acknowledge the role that the media’s seeming hostility toward Romney is playing in the coverage and in the access restrictions that have been imposed by his campaign. By early 2011, it was apparent that many reporters viewed Romney as inauthentic and were selecting anecdotes to report that were consistent with this narrative. Coverage during the GOP primaries and the ensuing months was often similarly hostile. Fearful of the media focusing on the mistakes of its error-prone candidate, the campaign has locked down Romney so tightly that the traveling press were only granted a total of three questions during the seven-day foreign trip (though Romney did conduct substantive interviews with broadcast and cable networks).