Hillary clashes with the press, again. Is her media strategy misguided?

Some are criticizing Hillary Clinton for using a rope to keep reporters at bay at an Independence Day parade, the latest in a long history of clashes between the former Secretary of State and the press. 

Dominick Reuter/Reuters
Former United States Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for president Hillary Clinton walks in the Fourth of July Parade in Gorham, N. H., July 4, 2015.

Hillary Clinton has come under fire for corralling reporters behind a rope at the Independence Day parade in Gorham, N. H.

Nick Merrill, spokesman for the 2016 presidential candidate said in a statement that the rope was an attempt to "accommodate the press, allow her to greet voters, and allow the press to be right there in the parade." The rope made it possible for Mrs. Clinton to speak with parade-goers without being distracted by questions from reporters or the accusations of a handful of protesters present. 

But the incident has drawn criticism from New Hampshire Republican Party representatives, who are calling the rope line a “sad joke” that “insults the traditions of our First-in-the-Nation primary.”

Strained relations between Clinton and the press date back to her 2008 campaign, and appear to have carried over into her 2016 run. On June 1, nearly 20 journalists from major news outlets met to discuss concerns about Clinton's lack of accessibility. Several weeks later, she prompted outrage among the media when her campaign denied access to David Martosko, political editor of the Daily Mail, a designated print pool reporter for that day. 

“The press needs to make every effort it can to make sure voters understand that it is not just disrespect for the press, it’s disrespect for democracy that Hillary Clinton's campaign exhibits on a regular basis," wrote David Zurawik for the Baltimore Sun shortly after the Daily Mail incident. 

So why make an enemy of the media? Some political analysts provide the simplest answer: because she can. According to a recent CNN poll, 57 percent of Democratic voters support Clinton. 

“That leaves the news media as her only real opponent so far on the way to the Democratic presidential nomination, and while it may not be great for an educated populace or the furtherance of American democracy, it makes all the political sense in the world for Mrs. Clinton to ignore them, too,” writes Jason Horowitz of The New York Times. 

Mr. Horowitz gives examples of Republican opponents, such as Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, who have hurt their own campaigns through awkward interactions with the press. Why, he says, would Clinton willingly put herself in that risky position when she doesn't need the media coverage?

Others feel this strategy is a mistake. 

"She may be avoiding short-term pain by sticking to her script, but she's creating an imperial image of herself that's hard to reverse – and one the media has every incentive to reinforce," writes Josh Kraushaar of National Journal.

Some numbers suggest that Clinton's avoidance of the press may be backfiring. A June CNN/ORC poll on 2016 presidential candidates revealed that 57 percent of American adults polled said Hillary Clinton is not honest and trustworthy – up from 49 percent in March. 

While Clinton may be garnering the brunt of the criticism, she is not the only candidate keeping a low media profile. Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has also been called out for his lack of interviews. 

"If the media are going to carp that Hillary Clinton is largely ignoring them, then the same complaint applies to Walker. Which brings us to the existential question: Does a presidential candidate really need the media at all?" Howard Kuntz of Fox News wrote in April.

"It's not that candidates have some grave responsibility to keep reporters happy ... but Walker, like his rivals, has a prime opportunity to use that bandwidth to define himself, rather than letting his critics define him." 

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