Presidential campaign events are always orchestrated stage shows, and reporters are used to campaigns doing their best to manipulate the media and control the day’s narrative. The Obama campaign must believe their supporters are clueless. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be barring journalists from interviewing them at campaign events.
One such event was at a Michelle Obama event in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania recently.
Dave Davies is a journalist who was covering the event and wanted to interview some of the attendees. Since he was not permitted to leave the “media pen” inside the Upper Dublin High School gym, he asked if he could go outside. He was told that he could go out and come back in, but he couldn’t talk to anybody waiting outside in line.
The stated reason was “security and crowd control concerns.”
He went outside and found a line of people waiting to get into the event hoping to try to sneak in an interview there.
Here’s an exchange recalled by Davies:
I was speaking to a very enthusiastic Obama supporter named Corinne Dieterle, when I was interrupted by a young man wearing a campaign staff tag telling me I couldn’t be doing this.
This is outside, in front of a public high school.
“You can’t be doing this in line,” he said.
“Why is that?” I asked.
No answer. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I can’t do what in line?”
“You can’t be interviewing people in line,” he said.
I asked him repeatedly who he was and why interviews were banned.
Those inquiries were met with silence. At one point he grabbed my microphone, but released it when I asked him to.
I decided to try speaking to a couple who were approaching, but not yet in the line. A different campaign operative approached and the same thing happened. He also refused to identify himself.
Later, inside the gym, I was in the assigned media pen and chatting across the rope line with Dieterle, who I’d tried to interview earlier. Another Obama press aide, Desiree Peterkin Bell came and politely told me that wasn’t permitted.
Dieterle by the way was troubled by what had happened, and called the interference of campaign aides “un-American.”
Jennifer Austin, the Pennsylvania press secretary for the Obama campaign declined an interview from Davies but left him with this: “We encourage reporters to talk to our supporters at events.”
Apparently, just not supporters who are actually in the rally itself. Or supporters in line waiting to get in the rally. Or supporters in the vicinity of the line waiting to get in the rally. But other than that, they do encourage interviewing supporters.
It may not sound like encouragement, but it is encouragement in the Obama campaign world.