The campaign of Mitt Romney knew what was coming. The Post’s Jason Horowitz had been gathering string on young Mitt Romney, from when he was a student at the elite Cranbrook School. He had some interesting revelations about the sorts of pranks and bullying that Romney had propagated in those days, nearly 50 years ago.
Would the candidate make himself available for an interview? Not according to the story:
Campaign officials denied a request for an interview with Romney. They also declined to comment further about his years at Cranbrook.
The Post did get a comment from Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul, saying, “Anyone who knows Mitt Romney knows that he doesn’t have a mean-spirited bone in his body. The stories of fifty years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents.”
According to Kevin Merida, the Post’s national editor, the Romney campaign asked to speak with a top editor of The Post once it was clear that this story was headed toward publication. In his discussions with the Romney people, Merida says, “The main thing I was trying to communicate to them was that it was a much larger story, part of a biographical series on a candidate’s life, and this was about the prep years in Cranbrook. We gave them very specific information about what we had, including that we had four on-the-record classmates of Mitt Romney” for the marquee incident in the story, says Merida.
The response from the campaign? “They said they would get back to us with a statement,” says Merida.
Business as usual in high-profile campaignland, in other words. From the sound of it, the Romney folks were shopping for intelligence on how bad the story was going to be, the better to plan their countermeasures once it hit the Internet. The candidate issued an apology earlier today.
The campaign has indeed cooperated fully with print outlets on some stories. The New York Times, for instance, snagged an interview with the candidate for a piece on his friendship with Benjamin Netanyahu. It was a positive piece. Another example is The Post’s story on Romney’s relationship with his father, George Romney. It, too, was a positive story.
Sit-downs or stand-ups — any kind of one-on-one interaction — are tough to come by, however, according to reporters who’ve been on the campaign trail with Romney. That’s not an uncommon gripe among those on a presidential campaign, and it’s not as if President Obama is touring Washington newsrooms, passing out exclusives.
Asked about its response to The Post’s story, the Romney campaign did not directly answer, instead pointing to an interview Romney sat for today.
The day’s events, however, are unlikely to shake up the campaign’s approach to candidate interviews. Sure, the absence of Romney in the Horowitz story may have deprived it of perspective and a softening agent. But it’s not as if issuing an apology within the four corners of the story would have suppressed the media uproar that gobbled it up today.
No matter what Romney had said to The Post, every media outlet in the land still would have pressed the candidate for their own exclusive “reax” stories. Lesson: Stay the course.