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.