Network TV representatives decided Monday not to fight restrictions imposed by Donald Trump’s campaign on reporters covering the Republican presidential front-runner.
In a conference call, the political-news chiefs of the five leading news networks conferred about the issue but came to no agreement about what to do, several people familiar with the discussion said.
The call among news managers from ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News came after two run-ins between network journalists and Trump officials last week.
In both cases, the journalists — videographers who have been “embedded” with the campaign for months — sought to speak with people attending Trump rallies. They were ordered back into a designated media “pen” by Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who threatened to ban them from covering the campaign if they didn’t comply.
Some network managers had been pushing for a joint statement or letter to the Trump campaign seeking an agreement on reporter access. But others said the issue was overblown and required no formal action. The lack of unanimity doomed any further effort.
In interviews, officials from two networks described the conflicts between Lewandowski and reporters last week as an unpleasant but routine part of campaign coverage. They dismissed the need for a collective response.
“As of right now, there’s no plan for it and no list of demands,” said one official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the group’s discussion was supposed to be private.
In an e-mail Sunday night, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks also played down conflicts with reporters.
“During the program we require that the credentialed media remains in the designated press area so as not to interfere with the integrity of the event and the voters’ experience listening to and interacting with Mr. Trump,” she wrote.
Lewandowski threatened to “blacklist” a CNN journalist, Noah Gray, last week after Gray sought to leave the press pen during a Trump speech in Worcester, Mass.
Reporters also complained that they were ordered back into the pen Friday when they tried to interview Trump supporters before his speech in Spartanburg, S.C.
Presidents and presidential campaigns have tried corralling journalists for decades and usually do so without incident. In one episode this summer, Hillary Clinton walked in a Fourth of July parade in New Hampshire while the news media was kept at bay with a rope held by press aides walking along with her.
The restrictions on Trump campaign reporters didn’t stop CNN journalist Jeremy Diamond from recording video of an African American man being punched and kicked by Trump supporters at a rally Saturday in Birmingham, Ala. The man interrupted the candidate’s speech by shouting, “Black lives matter.”
Trump said the protester was “so obnoxious and loud” that “maybe he should have been roughed up” by audience members.