Hillary Clinton took questions from reporters aboard her campaign plane Monday, but seemingly more interesting than what she said is what to call the session in which she said it. Was it a news conference or something else — perhaps merely a "gaggle" or an "avail"?
Under different circumstances, this would be a silly, semantic argument, but the Democratic presidential candidate's lack of news conferences has become a campaign issue, with journalists complaining that she has not held one since last year, and Donald Trump's team attempting to brand her as "Hiding Hillary."
It is important to note the difference between a gaggle and a press conference. A press conference is a scheduled event where the press is given the opportunity to prepare and ask questions. Clinton’s impromptu gaggle was not announced in advance and was limited to just the press traveling with her on her campaign airplane.
The view that Clinton's news conference drought is not really over is not confined to the far right, however.
And some news organizations shied away from making a call one way or the other. The New York Times, for instance, described the candidate's interaction with the media without assigning a label. The Washington Post's John Wagner, aboard the plane, wrote that the session "resembled a news conference."
CNN's Brian Stelter effectively captured just how squishy the term "press conference" is.
Others ruled definitively that Clinton has indeed broken her streak. Politico declared the "standoff" over, so Glenn Thrush immediately started a new count. And even as the conservative Daily Caller highlighted another Clinton coughing fit, it credited the Democratic standard-bearer with conducting a news conference.
In a bit of gamesmanship, the liberal press watchdog Media Matters published a story Tuesday morning under the following headline: "Fox host: Clinton held press conference to distract from coughing spell." The headline suggested — without using a direct quote — that "Fox & Friends" host Ainsley Earhardt had conceded that the Q&A constituted a news conference while questioning Clinton's motive. She didn't. Earhardt speculated that Clinton decided to "speak to the press" to draw attention away from an earlier coughing fit at a rally in Ohio.
The Media Matters headline technically wasn't inaccurate, since it paraphrased Earhardt. But it sure looked like an attempt to establish that Clinton's media availability was so clearly a news conference that even her critics at Fox News are calling it a news conference.
For us at The Fix, Clinton's session on the plane was news conference-ish enough to reset our running tally.
That's a slight problem for Trump, who has taken to citing our tracker in his daily "Hiding Hillary" emails to reporters. He linked to us again Tuesday, apparently without realizing our count no longer supports his argument.
Trump, who has scaled back his media accessibility lately, also has to worry about reporters shifting the spotlight to him.
Whatever the right phrase to describe Clinton's Monday Q&A, the bottom line is journalists will only get off her back about this if — now that they can travel aboard her campaign plane — the candidate makes herself available for questions on a regular basis. The underlying issue has always been access, and if Clinton grants more going forward, the format probably won't matter very much.