Last week marked the six month anniversary of Hillary Clinton's last press conference, a milestone that highlighted her acute aversion to fielding sustained, free-wheeling questions from the news media. In response to criticism over her press-avoidance strategy, Clinton cited the countless questions she's deigned to answer in one-on-one interviews and at town hall events, some of which have been shown to be highly choreographed by her campaign. Hillary spokesman Brian Fallon was confronted with the half-a-year statistic on CNN over the weekend, and he issued the following response:
Technically, yes, it has been a long time since the candidate’s last formal news conference, but she routinely answers questions in other settings, press secretary Brian Fallon argued Sunday on CNN. A news conference, he said, “oftentimes is just defined by whether you have a banner behind you or a podium in front of you.” Fallon added this: “Oftentimes … we will do an ‘avail’ — what would be known as an avail to the people in your business — where she informally comes out after an event has concluded, after she’s taken some photos and some selfies, and she will literally stand there for 15, 20 minutes and answer questions from her traveling press corps, including the embeds from the various networks.”
Except this is all literally not true. If Clinton were truly in the habit of fielding questions from reporters for an extended period of time — a period of time that resembles the duration of a news conference — then griping about the informal nature of the sessions would indeed be harder to justify. Talking to reporters in a scrum isn’t particularly conducive to live television — and the comparison here is to Trump’s regularly scheduled news conferences, which cable channels often air live — but at least Clinton would be submitting herself to a similar level of questioning.
Not to be outdone, ABC News demonstrates just how inaccurate Fallon's characterization is, explaining that the presumptive Democratic nominee does not conduct media avails "often," as he claims, and that not one of them has even lasted ten minutes, let alone "15 or 20." Amid criticism of what I've referred to as her bunker approach to campaigning, Mrs. Clinton held a brief media scrum yesterday. Was this finally a proper, lengthy press conference? Nope. It lasted eight minutes. And as Larry O'Connor points out with disgust, the assembled reporters decided to reward Clinton's media tactics by lobbing process-focused softballs at her for the entirety of the exchange. Maddening:
Three questions about becoming the first female major party nominee in US history -- including two about the emotions involved (!) -- two about President Obama's reportedly imminent endorsement and role in her campaign, and three about Bernie Sanders and the nominating process. That's it. Nothing on foreign policy, which was the focus of her acerbic anti-Trump speech last week. Nothing on the damning IG report, from which her campaign is reeling. Nothing about the Clinton Foundation, about which Sanders has begun to level serious criticisms. Nothing about the scandal at the State Department, which she used to lead. None of any of that. And now when other journalists try to hold her feet to the fire on access and accountability, her team can say that they just held an "extended" Q&A with reporters...or however they'll exaggerate it in their self-serving framing. Up next: The adulation-saturated Hillary victory tour, having clinched her party's nomination. Have you heard she's making history? Tell us how that makes you feeeeeeel, America. (Spoiler: Shrug).