The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Why Was NY Times Reporter Jeff Zeleny Doing Romney Campaign’s Bidding?

Posted on | March 26, 2012 | 50 Comments

Rick Santorum has been using the “uniquely disqualified” line against Mitt Romney in his stump speeches for weeks to describe how RomneyCare makes the Massachusetts governor a poor choice to face Obama in November.

So, while people are making a big deal of Santorum yelling “bulls–t” at New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny for asking him about the line, they’re missing the important point: Why did Zeleny ask the question?

During an interview today with CNN’s olf Blitzer, Santorum explained the part of the story you haven’t heard: Zeleny and other reporters asked him similar questions repeatedly after being prompted to do so by a Romney staffer who attended Santorum’s speech.

“This is the kind of stuff that we’ve been seeing from the Romney spin machine. Their press secretary was back in the back of the room, out there feeding lines to the national press. . . . It’s the third time I was asked that question in the matter of four minutes,” Santorum told Blitzer on CNN’s Situation Room. “They sent a Romney person to our speech. He fed the line to all the reporters. We saw it happening. And every man in that room, even reporters [said] ‘Yes, we understand what you meant. But, you know, the Romney people said this to us, so we had asked about.’ That’s what happened.”

Think about this: The Romney campaign sends a staffer to a Santorum speech, the staffer is feeding questions to reporters at the event and — like little lapdogs — the reporters do exactly what the Romney staffer wants.

Santorum’s right: This is bullsh–t and Zeleny’s editors should be asking why their reporter went along with this “gotcha” game.

UPDATE: I’ve said before that I don’t like “gotcha” reporting, where the aim of the enterprise is to try to embarrass somebody on camera. To be doing “gotcha” reporting at the behest of an opposing campaign? C’mon.

UPDATE II: Linked by That Mr. G Guy — thanks!

Reporters shouting questions at a candidate while he’s “working the rope line,” shaking hands with supporters after an event, is a phenomenon I’ve witnessed often during the campaign, but never done myself. It just seems like such a low-yield activity as to be a waste of time: What, you think he’s going to give you a worldwide exclusive, right there on the rope line?

Zeleny has claimed Santorum blew up at him as a sort of publicity stunt, but when a New York Times reporter decides to play errand-boy for the Romney campaign, who’s zooming who?

UPDATE III: Speaking of journalistic ethics, yesterday I said on Twitter that if Santorum had punched out Zeleny, the viral video would have been worth a million dollars of fundraising.

But that’s just a Neutral Objective Fact.


  • smitty

    Ooh, ooh, Mister Kotter! I know! The answer involves a stack of frogskins! @rsmccain:twitter 

  • Robbyahm

    Dude, these Romney folks are definately getting vicious by the day this primary drags on, i mean what a great way to motivate you to vote for mr. Inetivable, “its either romneycare or obamacare, pick which way you to die,” i know for a fact im voting for a governor, just maybe not from massachussetts. I dont know. I just know for a fact i dont like feeling like romneys people making me feel like a hostage.

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  • newrouter

    yea this tactic will work in the general election. wall street romney for the quarterly dividend. 

  • ThePaganTemple

    How dare that New York Times Reporter Jeff Zeleny do his job and ask a probing question of Ricky Poo Santorum?


  • Robbyahm

    Someone today mentioned that jeff zeleny was the same guy that asked obama one of the most pressing question in our country, “what has enchanted you the most about serving in the office?” If hes still a credible man for this job than im with you and tell rick to suck it up.

  • bradley

    As if any sentient being needs an underlying reason to “lash out” at a NYT reporter.

    I mean, if you don’t smack them around now and then, how will they ever learn?

  • SDN

     Doing his job? or his job for Romney?

  • PressingOn

    Reporters weren’t even able to figure out that they were pawns for Romney.  Or were they?

  • SVT

    Of course you’re right. SDN – but Temple is so completely irrational on the subject of Santorum that he’d probably applaud a fatwa against him.

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    That is where the bullshit is.  I do not care if a reporter is partisan, provided they are up front about  being partisan.  This stealth crap is what gets old.  Rick Santorum was right to call bullshit on that.  

  • Adjoran

     Based on what?  Santorum’s word?

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Spare the rod, spoil the reporter!  

  • smitty

    It’s hard to think of them as any more potent chess piece.

  • Adjoran

     How are the Romney people doing anything to you? 

    Romney getting vicious?  You hear how Santorum is speaking about Romney, but Romney is getting vicious?

    Got a quote?  No.

    Look, if you want to help reelect Obama, it’s your vote.  You don’t need to make up excuses.

  • Adjoran

    Boy, does it look like Santorum’s head is gonna bus’ right open any minute?  He may be on the verge of a meltdown.  

  • smitty

    On the other hand, has it occurred to you that being NotMittRomney==ShowingSignsOfLife?

  • rrpjr

    The real problem killing us isn’t the “gotcha” reporting or the malicious bias. The real problem is the complete inability of conservatives to figure this game out, ie., to learn rhetorical judo and flip it back in their faces. These are huge OPPORTUNITIES. Enjoy yourself, candidates. Relish the leftist media. Go after them with gusto. Humiliate them in front of the country. It’s not that hard. Really, it isn’t. Breitbart proved it.

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady
  • TR

    Oh yah, and why does Mr. Other do the bidding of Ricky-boy w/r to Newt and Mitt? 

    Just curious, but guys, those glass houses are very hard to maintain.

  • Robbyahm

    Hold on there, i did not say romney was vicious, i said his supporters were (example?…you) actually i consider romney an arrogant rich white jerk. Example?…I’ll refer you to his march 14, 2012 interview with megyn kelly. And like i did say, romneys folks makes feel hostaged when they say things like “a vote for …. is a vote for obama” need i really put an example here?

  • Robbyahm

    You know what? If santorum cant win the republican nomination then rick might as well give the pope a reason to canonize him by going on a martyr quest against the mfm. Go Saint Rick 2016!

  • ThePaganTemple

     I’m irrational? Do you people ever listen to yourselves? Ask yourself how you’re going to feel when you see Mitt Romney standing in Tampa giving his acceptance speech.

    And you know something? I bet if I told a bunch of Protestant Christians they were a bunch of hypocrites for practicing birth control, I’d never hear the fucking end of it.

    Of course, I’d never say something like that. But who knows, I might be wrong. If I say it often enough some of you guys might even write my name in for President.

  • ThePaganTemple

    Here’s something Rick could do to regain some momentum. He could take a page out of the playbook of a certain former governor of Arkansas by the name of Bill Clinton. He could apologize for calling Protestant Christians hypocrites for practicing birth control. If he comes across as sincere enough it might have the same benefit it did for Clinton back in the days his seemingly heartfelt apology helped him regain the governor’s office.

    And while he’s at it, he might also offer an apology for sticking his foot in his mouth over this Zimmermann-Martin case.

    But of course he’ll never do that.

    And he is going to lose.

  • Adjoran

     If hearing the truth makes you a hostage, then I guess you are a hostage.

  • AnonymousDrivel

    The outrageously outraged MFM had their dainty little minds contaminated by the descriptor “bull****”? How ever will they continue? Woe is their world as it all comes crumbling down because Santorum, who obviously fancies Himself as THE Jesus Christ, won’t turn his cheek and take their smears up his a**. Because of some perverted form of media-constructed hypocrisy or something, I’m sure. SEE! He said a dirty word! He’s not pure!

    Good grief, the MFM is pathetic. Their games are so gobsmackingly transparent it’s getting to the point of pitying them more than loathing. But we’re not past the loathing just yet. After their bankruptcies, then we can proceed to the pitying.

    Sure, why the question and at whose prodding is important, but there are multiple levels of media corruption yet again. The “outrageous outrage” performance art cannot get cast aside even for the bigger picture that seems to have been ignored.

  • Adjoran

     It sure doesn’t seem that way to Jim DeMint.  Or Kevin McCarthy.  Or Mike Lee.  Or Al Cardenas.  Or Jeb Bush.

    Let’s review the last week’s action:  Santorum wins by 22 in LA and wins the delegate spread 10-5 over Romney.  Romney wins PR by over 60 and the delegates 23-0.  Romney wins IL by double digits and the delegate spread 42-10.  So Rick’s HUGE win netted him +5 in one state, Romney’s ho-hum wins netted him + 55 in the other two.

    Signs of life?  Call the coroner, dude.  This parrot is quite dead.

  • Adjoran

     He lost his cool.  The guy asked about what he said.  So what if he’d been asked before?  Candidates are asked the same things over and over again all the time.  Three times in four minutes?  So what?  Again, unless they were right there, how is a reporter to know what the others asked?

    And he claimed it was planted by a Romney guy in the back of the room – how could he know that?  He’s just making it up, like he made up the “malicious” charge against Zimmerman.

    The guy is cracking under the pressure.  Good thing he’ll never be President, huh?

  • Robbyahm

    I guess your right, romneys so inetidable to win everything including the white house so the question now is why does he need my vote?

  • AnonymousDrivel

    Multiple times in a very short time frame by a collective whose job it is to take notes is NOT the sign of honest newsgathering. This is agenda driven narrative-making.

    Did Santorum “lose his cool”? Not to me because I understand the MFM like I used not to years ago, but I’ll not quibble too much on relative perceptions. Some might think so – and the MFM would love to append that narrative to any other fishing expedition they can assemble – but “lost cool” and “behaved appropriately” are just matters of degree on the spectrum. Did he sit idly by while this nonsense went on? No, and I love to see the MFM get called out. So do conservatives which never hurts if it’s the base whose attentions you desire.

    As to Team Romney egging on the question, I don’t know, but there’s a pretty decent chance Santorum knows who is on the opposing team. The campaigns know many of the personalities and actors on each side. It seems logical that Team Santorum might notice Team Romney in its midst. Those little macacas!!! run all over the place. (Consider Jason Chaffetz, for example.)

    Nice touch with the Zimmerman reference, too. It wraps everything up into a nice little package.

    I don’t think Santorum will be president (and he’s my choice now until circumstances change), but I don’t see him “cracking.” At least, however, he didn’t ask a moderator to step in and stop the questioning. He answered straight up multiple times until he’d had enough. And then he called them out personally.

  • Douglas L

    YOU HAVE NO PROOF. Santorum has been hurling around these lies about the media working with ROMNEY. Where is the Staffers name? Why isnt the media backing this story up? This was a liner by Rick that was not backed up at all. HE SAW THE ROMNEY STAFFER SAYING THIS STUFF AND DID NOT CONFRONT THEM? WHATTTTTT? This is completely bull sh_t! NOW, NOT ONLY HAS SANTORUM accused Foxnews and Drudge and Ron Paul of creating a deal, but now the romney people are creating a deal with all of the media? The leftists media has been Santorums best friend this whole time.. lol… Infact, wasnt it OReilly that said Santorum has gotten more free press than Romney could possibly pay for?

  • Douglas L

    SANTORUMS CLAIM IS UNFOUNDED!. Santorum has been hurling around these lies about the media working with ROMNEY. Where is the Staffers name? Why isnt the media backing this story up? This was a liner by Rick that was not backed up at all. HE SAW THE ROMNEY STAFFER SAYING THIS STUFF AND DID NOT CONFRONT THEM? WHATTTTTT? This is completely bull sh_t! NOW, NOT ONLY HAS SANTORUM accused Foxnews and Drudge and Ron Paul of creating a deal, but now the romney people are creating a deal with all of the media? The leftists media has been Santorums best friend this whole time.. lol… Infact, wasnt it OReilly that said Santorum has gotten more free press than Romney could possibly pay for?

  • Gillian

    Guess what?  Grown ups know how to deal with stressful situations without blowing up.

    A reporter asking a question about a quote from a speech you just gave does not mean you get to throw a temper tantrum like a child.  Even Santorum’s CHILD was embarrassed about her dad’s behavior.

    Also, we’re supposed to take Santorum’s word that there was a mysterious, one-armed Romney staffer that has some magical powers over a NYT reporter?

    You do realize this is coming from the same guy who went from endorsing Romney, to saying America would be better off with Obama, to saying he would like to be Romney’s VP?

    Next to Santorum, Romney looks more and more Reaganesque every day.

  • Ethel

    Geeez he just called bs on the NYT, it’s not like he called out Macaca in the back of the room.

  • John Higgins1990

    Romney, like McCain, thinks that he has the media in his corner.  He will be in for a rude awakening when they all turn on him in unison once he gets the nomination.  Mitt hasn’t figured out that the MSM hate Republicans (to be fair, they hate conservatives far more, but since Mitt isn’t conservative, he doesn’t have to worry about this level of hate being spewed at him).

  • ThePaganTemple

    Bottom line, Santorum by his words and actions over the last couple of months has proven himself to be a complete fuck up. If he did win the presidency, he would do the conservative cause no good, because the Democrats and RINOs would have him so tied up in knots he would be completely ineffectual, probably even a laughing stock on a level seldom seen in high office.

    And by the way, that is even assuming he would govern as a true conservative to begin with. And I don’t assume that at all.  More than like he would, on balance, be every bit the RINO people are assuming Romney will be.

    At least Romney claims to believe in the 10th Amendment, and Federalism. I’ll take him at his word and hope he lives up to it.

    I’m not really happy about it. I’d much prefer another candidate. But if that’s who we’re stuck with-Romney it is.

    You all know what you call that, don’t you?

    Thaaaaat’s right, you call that “taking one for the team”.

  • rosalie

    Isn’t Jeb the one who just recently declared that he “used to be a Conservative?  And what did Rove recently say?   “Endorsements don’t mean snot”.

  • SDN

     Seeing as how he has a far better record for honesty than ORomney (or you), yep.

  • rosalie

    At least he didn’t make an obscene gesture, as our dear leader, or try to strangle someone as some Democrate did.  What it proves is that he’s human, which is a nice quality.  Romney doesn’t lose his cool because he has others doing the dirty work for him.

  • Bob Belvedere

    I don’t care about them learning anything ? they’re beyond hope [and change]; I just take a deep satisfaction in watching them get whacked.

  • Bob Belvedere

    By any means necessary is their motto.  Like every Leftist, they’re out to sow Chaos.

  • ThePaganTemple

    “Endorsements don’t mean snot”.

    But votes and delegates mean quite a lot

  • ThePaganTemple

     Hey now you cut that out. Rick isn’t some ordinary “human”, he’s The Super Divine Ricky Poo-stronger than a Tea Party Express, able to shoot loads of steaming shit straight out of his mouth.

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  • scarymatt

    So, the real problem is that Santorum didn’t think of getting his people in position to ask embarrassing questions of opponents first?  Or that he can’t afford to?

  • rosalie

    Can’t argue with that.   But Adj. brought up the endorsements.

  • rosalie

    Maybe Bachmann, who went through the same thing, should have said “bulls–t”. 

  • ThePaganTemple

     No the real problem is he keeps saying shit that he should feel embarrassed about to begin with.

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  • Bob Belvedere

    How’d you know I’m of Eye-talian descent?