Presidential races

Drumbeat builds for Clinton press conference


Pressure is building on Hillary Clinton to hold a press conference as she seeks to wrap up the Democratic presidential nomination.

It’s been 180 days since Clinton’s last open press conference, a fact not lost on the members of the media who cover her, or on Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

{mosads}CNN’s Jake Tapper broached the topic with the former secretary of State in an interview on Tuesday afternoon, just hours after Trump held a contentious 40-minute press conference where he berated the media for questioning his donations to veterans. 

“It’s been something like five or six months since you’ve held an actual press conference,” Tapper said. “Is that something you will remedy soon?”

“I’m sure we will. I was shocked myself that I’ve done nearly 300 interviews [in 2016],” Clinton replied. 

“I believe that we do, and we should answer questions. Of course I’m going to, in many, many different types of settings.”  

Clinton’s interview count likely includes the local interviews she has given ahead of primaries and caucuses, as well as nationally televised town halls and interviews on talk shows such as NBC’s “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

But press conferences give reporters more opportunity to ask a candidate tough questions in an open setting.

Some Democrats say Clinton would benefit from a freewheeling exchange with the press. 

“I understand they like to brag about the more than 300 interviews; that’s fine. But there’s nothing like a good, honest give-and-take in a room full of reporters to really air out some of these issues,” said one Democratic strategist who requested anonymity.  

“I don’t consider Ellen an interview.” 

Clinton held her most recent open press conference on Dec. 4 in Iowa. NBC News reported that she took seven questions.

The lack of access has angered reporters tasked with covering Clinton, some of whom have aired their frustrations on Twitter.  

Clinton did hold a handful of press conferences on the campaign trail before December. But her unwillingness to talk to the media more prompted The Washington Post to create a web page that timed how long it had been since she had spoken to the press. 

The Clinton campaign did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment about press conferences.

But one Clinton ally reiterated a common viewpoint among her allies that the media would not treat her fairly if she hold one.

“There’s no benefit. It will only hurt her,” the ally said.

The ally said journalists would pepper Clinton with questions about her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State, why she hasn’t been able to decisively defeat White House rival Bernie Sanders, her likability and other unflattering subjects.   

One surrogate called the debate over a press conference “a distraction.”

“She’s doing interviews. Not just with Ellen but with CNN and MSNBC and serious outlets,” the surrogate said. “She’s getting the same questions that she would get from the reporters traveling with her.” 

Nancy Cordes, a CBS reporter who has covered Clinton, said Wednesday that the traveling press would rather that the Democratic contender hold more press conferences even if they turned as combative as Trump’s.  

“Those of us who cover the Hillary Clinton campaign would love to have a press conference even if she insulted us. She hasn’t done one for months and months, which is something Donald Trump himself noted,” she said on “CBS This Morning.”  

“She’s just not that comfortable in that setting.”  

Cordes specifically mentioned the report released last week by the State Department inspector general that found Clinton did not comply with the agency’s record-keeping policies when she served as secretary. While the campaign attempted to push back on the report by putting surrogates and campaign staffers out on the airwaves, calls for a press conference fell on deaf ears. 

“There were lots of us on the campaign trail who were dying to ask her questions about it, and she avoided all of us,” Cordes said on CBS. “She did a couple of quick call-ins to some cable shows but that was about it. She’s just not interested in getting the kinds of tough questions out there on the trail.”

Trump, meanwhile, has no reservations about holding press conferences, having held a handful this year that have received near-blanket coverage from cable and news media. 

The Democratic strategist, who supports Clinton, said the former first lady doesn’t have to mirror Trump’s dealings with the press and brushed aside the notion that the outrage ends with the press and the “D.C. insiders.” 

“They’ll say it’s a D.C. insider issue, but I’m not saying that’s the answer,” he said.

“I think if she did more, folks would pick up on the facts. A lot of people would appreciate the idea she’s doing press conferences to discuss these issues they are reading about in the news.”  

Amie Parnes contributed.

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Hillary Clinton
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