October 16, 2013

(Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press)

Seventh in a massive series on the media’s treatment of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) is riding a compelling Hillary Rodham Clinton story. It’s not so much about her quite-possible presidential run. Nor is it about the Clinton family’s foundation. Nor Benghazi. It’s about how Clinton is attempting the impossible: Turning a speech into something approaching an off-the-record occasion.

This morning, the former secretary of state was in Atlanta for a speaking engagement before the National Association of Convenience and Fuel Retailing (NACS). As the AJC reported yesterday, members of the media were barred from the session. Today it reported that a “cone of silence” had descended on her remarks. “Convention officials banned all video and sound recording, social media, and naturally, journalists,” wrote the AJC’s Greg Bluestein and Jim Galloway.

What happens when a public figure tries to suppress a speech? Does no one find out about what happened? No, of course not. Rather, the speech’s contours get communicated to the public in dribs and drabs, with no documentary guarantee of their accuracy. Have a look at the source that Bluestein and Galloway relied upon to tell readers about the affair:

No ears reported any mention of whatever 2016 ambitions Clinton might have. But state Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, said the former first lady dropped a huge hint. “I know she’s running for president now, because toward the end, she was asked about the Osama bin Laden raid. She took 25 minutes to answer,” Taylor said. “Without turning the knife too deeply, she put it to [Vice President Joe] Biden.”

Time and time again, Taylor said, Clinton mentioned the vice president’s opposition to the raid, while characterizing herself and Leon Panetta, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as the action’s most fierce advocates.

The Erik Wemple Blog is unfamiliar with the work and reputation of Georgia State Rep. Tom Taylor. He could well be the keenest and most objective state rep in all the country. But wouldn’t Clinton and her friends and her supporters and the reporters covering her prefer to have a simple video or audio recording so that one individual’s recollection doesn’t drive our understanding of the speech. After all, just what does “time and time again” mean? Perhaps others in the crowd of between 3,000 and 4,000 will come forward to add their perspectives.

Other sites are already picking up on the AJC’s story, which the newspaper concedes is none too solid: “Hearsay from Hillary Clinton: On Joe Biden and the Osama bin Laden raid,” reads the headline.

Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton, didn’t answer inquiries from the Erik Wemple Blog on how the ground rules evolved and whether someone in Clintonworld taped the event in case someone in the crowd offered a skewed version of events. The situation in Atlanta, after all, echoes the situation that unfolded last month in Miami, where Clinton gave a speech to a group of travel agents, and security momentarily confiscated the cell phone of an attendee who had the gall to take photos and video. Clone that man!

The organizer of the event in Miami told the Erik Wemple Blog that the rules suppressing cell phone photos and video came from the Harry Walker Agency, which represents Clinton for speaking engagements. The Harry Walker Agency hasn’t returned this blog’s interview requests. New York Times reporter Nick Confessore adds some context as to why speaker’s reps would be so aggressive on this front:

 

 

Translation: The secrecy facilitates robust speaking fees while at the same time trampling the dissemination of information.

Previously in this series:

No. 1: Commentator on MSNBC: White guy can’t ‘appreciate’ Hillary Clinton’s historic-ness

No. 2: Hillary Clinton profile whitewashes Benghazi.

No. 3: Clintonland “locked down,” Alec MacGillis says.

No. 4: Cokie Roberts on MSNBC: ‘Some … tea party anger is racist

No. 5: CNN film on Hillary Clinton is dead, says director. Lame!

No. 6: Five Hilarious excerpts from Glamour’s puff piece on Chelsea Clinton

Related: Hillary Clinton away from the microphone

 

 

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.