We’re hosting a Politico New Leaders Brunch on Sunday, Jan. 20, with a brief on-stage interview with moi. We would love to honor Chelsea Clinton, and it sounds like she has some issues, marriage and others, that she enjoys talking about these days. This would be a way to send a message during inaugural week: No one besides me would ask her a question, and you and I would agree on them precisely in advance.
This would be a relaxed conversation, and our innovative format (like a speedy Playbook Breakfast) always gets heavy social-media pickup. The interview would be “no surprises:” I would work with you on topics, and would start with anything she wants to cover or make news on. Quicker than a network hit, and reaching an audience you care about with no risk.
Allen’s interview with Chelsea Clinton never materialized, so we’ll never know how soft or friendly the exchange actually might have been. But offers of “no risk,” “no surprises,” and influence over question topics don’t look good. And you can bet the Republican presidential candidates — who often accuse the media of pro-Clinton bias — will pounce on this as confirmation of that belief. It’s a ready-made “liberal media” conspiracy theory.
The conservative Breitbart News Web site provided a nice template for the candidates with its reaction to Gawker’s report: “A smoking gun is always a nice thing to have, but it’s not like we need one to prove once and for all that Politico is dedicated to electing Hillary Clinton president.”
Gawker published a brief statement from Politico editor Susan Glasser: “We didn’t end up doing any interview with Chelsea Clinton, and we have a clear editorial policy of not providing questions to our guests in advance.”
In an e-mail to The Fix, Allen said this: “We didn't do this interview and never provide questions in advance. Never have; never would. I don't remember this e-mail. But all our events are spontaneous and news-driven, as you can tell by watching the videos of them, all of which are posted on our site.”
A bit of context might be helpful here, since we’re talking about events that happened almost three years ago: President Obama had just been reelected, and Allen was requesting an interview with Chelsea Clinton on inauguration weekend, which is basically one big party in DC. The news of the moment in Clinton world was that Hillary was just a couple weeks away from stepping down as secretary of state, having previously said she would not serve in Obama’s second term.
One interpretation of Allen’s e-mail to Philippe Reines, the Clinton aide, goes something like this: Hey, I’m looking for just a few minutes with Chelsea during an important time for her mom. This isn’t a probing, “60 Minutes”-style sit-down, so don’t worry about fielding anything out of left field.
Not so bad, right?
But the Republican translation will likely go more like this: What can I do to make Chelsea look good because, as we all know, I and my Web site (and most of the media) live to serve the royal family of the Democratic Party.
The GOP field has already put the media on blast this campaign season. There was that memorable rant by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas during the third primary debate.
There was the declaration by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida that the mainstream media is the “ultimate super PAC” helping Hillary Clinton.
There was Ben Carson’s mockery of press investigations into his background.
And there were Donald Trump’s feuds with, well, pretty much everybody.
Republican White House hopefuls sometimes go looking for bias where it’s not obvious, or nonexistent. But, in this case, they won’t have to look very hard. This time, Politico made their job easy.