The Washington Post

Gingrich bags Daily Tar Heel: Where’s the footage?

Memet Walker, a reporter with the Daily Tar Heel, writes that he had scheduled an exclusive interview with Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. A Gingrich aide posed no conditions on the session, which was to take place at a Tea Party rally on Saturday in Greensboro. All systems were go. Until Walker posed his first question, that is. Then this happened:

[B]efore I had finished asking my first question, that same aide cut the interview short and prompted Secret Service to grab and briefly detain me as the former speaker was led away. . . .

“You’re not asking that. You’re done,” his aide said.

Walker was trying to ask the former speaker about last week’s Gingrich headlines, the ones about how he now favored CNN over Fox News, even though he was formerly a paid contributor to the latter. Fox News chief Roger Ailes slapped back, saying that Gingrich was “trying to get a job at CNN, because he knows he isn’t going to get to come back to Fox.” To hear Walker tell it, Gingrich wasn’t eager to answer any more questions about his cable-news preferences.

The Daily Tar Heel reporter memorialized the encounter in this piece and concluded, “Next time, I’ll just follow my instincts and ask about the moon colony.”

Of course, that’s one side of the story.

The other side comes from the aide cited in Walker’s account. That’s Andrew Bell, a guy who has logged a great many miles with Gingrich. Bell says that he was trying to accommodate Walker as best he could, to give him a few minutes of exclusivity with the candidate.

But Walker, according to Bell, persisted in simply shouting at Gingrich. First came a shouted question about a possible Rick Santorum endorsement at the end of a “local media avail.” Then, says Bell, as he was attempting to introduce Walker to the candidate, “he began to yell at Newt.” The introduction never happened, according to Bell.

Says the Gingrich aide, “I was hoping he’d be a bit more respectful.”

The Gingrich camp is also eager to note that there was never a formal, sit-down kind of interview. Instead, Bell had planned a “walk-and-talk” session. Which never took place. The candidate, says Bell, had no problem with the questions themselves, just how they were posed. And Bell scoffs at the notion that Walker was restrained in any way. “I don’t think there was any detaining there,” he says.

Walker counters: “I was very calm. I definitely wasn’t shouting. I said eight words before they cut me off. I was talking the way I’m talking to you right now.” (Softly, that is.) UPDATE: There is now audio of the exchange on the Daily Tar Heel site.

So where’s YouTube on this spat? When two parties stick to their narratives in this fashion, it’s the video that helps us reach judgments about who acted like a jerk. No such luck in this instance.

Isabella Cochrane, the Daily Tar Heel’s state and national editor, says that the paper tried to get a photographer to the event, but those efforts fell through. “We did not even have photos of the event, which was disappointing,” says Cochrane. Says Walker of the campus paper: “We’re kind of amateur sometimes.”

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


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