Here’s a sound bite that’s sure to get all kinds of rotation over several news cycles this week. “I’m happy to blame the media.” That’s what Ann Romney said to Chris Wallace in a much-anticipated Fox News interview.
For what failure was Ann Romney singling out the media?
“The thing that was frustrating to me is that people didn’t really get to know Mitt for who he was,” she said. “People weren’t allowed to see him for who he really was.”
Wallace asked her if her discontent with her husband’s public image was connected to news accounts last fall that she and her son Tagg Romney had badgered Romney campaign executives to let the candidate be himself. Politico, for instance, reported as much on Oct. 9—that Ann and Tagg had urged a “‘let Mitt be Mitt’ approach they believed more accurately reflected the looser, generous and more approachable man they knew.”
Ann Romney confirmed the story to Wallace. “Well, of course—it was part–true,” she said, before including another, large entity in the equation: “But it was not just the campaign’s fault—I believe it was the media’s fault as well,” she said. “He was not being given a fair shake.”
There’s a mound of contradiction in Ann Romney’s critique. On one hand, Ann Romney confirms her frustration that the campaign kept too tight a lid on the candidate. On the other hand, she complains that he wasn’t portrayed more completely in the media. Problem: The campaign controlled the media’s access to the candidate, so blaming them both at the same time is a touch precious. Or perhaps it’s a luxury you’re afforded in the rearview mirror.
The quandary of access and humanization cited by Ann Romney spills forth from an Oct. 15, 2011, story in the New York Times by Sheryl Gay Stolberg. Titled in classic New York Times style, “For Romney, a Role of Faith and Authority,” the story dug into Romney’s very active history as a lay leader of the Mormon church in Massachusetts.
Though it mentioned an unfortunate incident or two in the candidate’s past, the effect of the piece (which this blog has mentioned before) was humanizing, just the picture Ann Romney told Chris Wallace the media should have emphasized. It told of Romney’s significant efforts to assist a 19-year-old college kid who had descended into alcoholism. It encapsulated his involvement in the construction of a Mormon temple. And it broke the story of Ted and Pat Oparowski, parents of a teenage son who died of cancer “three decades ago,” according to the story. Romney “ministered” to the child, wrote out a will for him and gave his eulogy.
Here’s an interesting passage from the story: “Mr. Romney declined to be interviewed for this article. Facing a primary electorate in which Christian conservatives are a powerful force, he is trying to keep his religion from becoming a barrier to his election.”
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