Jayne Hodak, the news director of Flint, Mich., ABC affiliate WJRT (ABC12, for Flinters) doesn’t really know why the interview between her reporter, Terry Camp, and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan got cut off. “I was just watching the interview and I’m going to be honest with you: Did it end abruptly? Yes, it did. But I can’t tell you why.”
Let the Erik Wemple Blog have a shot at explaining it. Camp asked Ryan about the “gun problem” in the United States, a question that Ryan rejected, saying there was a “crime problem.” He then riffed on how to solve urban ills:
But the best thing to help prevent violent crime in the inner cities is to bring opportunity to the inner cities...is to help teach people good discipline, good character — that is civil society, that’s what charities and civic groups and churches do to help one another make sure that they can realize the value in one another.
Then Camp intervened with some words. How to punctuate those words is central to this dispute, however. Listen carefully to the exchange: Is Camp asking Ryan a question or making an editorial statement? The words are as follows, and they should be presented either like this:
And you can do all that by cutting taxes...with a big tax cut?
Or like this:
And you can do all that by cutting taxes...with a big tax cut.
Ryan interpreted the words as the skepticism of a sneering reporter. The candidate said to Camp, “Those are your words, not mine.”
A Ryan aide stepped in to stop the interview: “Thank you very much, sir.” As he got up to leave, Ryan quipped to Camp: “That was kind of strange — stuff words in people’s mouths.”
No, that’s not what Camp was doing, says Hodak. “Terry in no way was trying to make a political comment. He said he was just asking a question.”
Perhaps, but it was an editorially loaded question, too. To these ears, Camp’s question sounded like commentary that came from an Obama administration talking point — that is, that the Romney campaign’s solution to all of our ills involves one tax cut or another. There’s a way to put that matter before Ryan — as in, The Obama campaign has charged that your solution to all kinds of problems is a tax cut. How do you rebut that attack? — but Camp didn’t go through those paces. (The interview had already exceeded its allotted five minutes, according to Hodak and BuzzFeed.)
Asked whether the Ryan folks thought Camp was editorializing, Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck responded, “[W]e’ll leave that up to folks at home.” And Buck confirmed that the session ended “because it was already well over time. “
Perhaps for that reason, Hodak insists that “more is being made out of it than it is.” The Erik Wemple Blog insists in return that too much can’t possibly be made of a nice, fresh clash between a scrappy local television reporter and one half of a presidential ticket one month away from an election that Newt Gingrich has called the “most important...of our lifetime.”