Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley moved a planned policy speech this week on Wall Street reform out of the National Press Club in Washington after his campaign objected to a long-standing format in which a single club-designated journalist asks follow-up questions.
The former Maryland governor is instead now scheduled to appear Thursday at a Washington policy institute, where he will participate in a “discussion” with Brad Miller, a former Democratic congressman considered a leader on financial reforms. The event is timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of Dodd-Frank, the landmark banking legislation.
William McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club, said his organization was given only 48 hours notice that O’Malley was pulling out of its long-scheduled event, a luncheon for which about 90 tickets had been sold. McCarren said other 2016 presidential hopefuls have recently appeared at the club and operated under the same format they were asking of O’Malley.
“They wanted a former member of Congress rather than a journalist asking questions,” McCarren said. “We don’t do it that way at the Press Club, never have. … It’s a lost opportunity for the journalism community in Washington.”
O’Malley aides said the venue change was not an attempt to duck the press, noting that the advisory for the relocated event makes clear that O’Malley will answer questions from reporters after his discussion with Miller, who represented a North Carolina district from 2003 to 2013.
“Holding the event this way does more justice to the complex debate surrounding Wall Street reform,” said O’Malley spokeswoman Lis Smith. “The Press Club was not amenable to that. … We’d be happy to do another event with them in the future.”
Smith also noted that Miller has not endorsed O’Malley for the Democratic nomination and is not expected to toss softball questions his way.
O’Malley, who is lagging in the polls behind Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has hardly been shy on the campaign trail about taking questions from press. In fact, he has made himself available to reporters far more regularly than his rivals for the Democratic nomination.
McCarren said the Press Club’s practice is to have its president ask questions -- culled from a variety of sources -- at events like the one that had been scheduled with O’Malley. The current president is John Hughes, the editor of Bloomberg First Word.
Other 2016 hopefuls who’ve operated under the same format, McCarren said, include Sanders; as well as Republicans Rick Perry, the former Texas governor; Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon; Marco Rubio, the Florida senator; and Donald Trump, the real-estate mogul.
“We want all the presidential candidates to come here,” McCarren said. “They usually do.”
O’Malley’s event is now being held at the Center for National Policy, an organization for which O’Malley adviser Douglas Wilson sits on the board of advisers. O’Malley aides said Wilson, a former Pentagon spokesman, was not involved with the scheduling of the event.