Appearing on NBC’s Today on Sunday, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd acknowledged that “the optics look terrible” for Hillary Clinton after her campaign roped off the press during a 4th of July parade in New Hampshire, but he added: “Look, I am sympathetic to the campaign's complaint. She has a large media horde following her around that it makes it hard, because of the media, for her to interact with voters.”
Todd continued by lecturing his media colleagues: “And I think there is a fine line there. And we as journalists, when you're covering a candidate who is campaigning for the support of voters, we should be there to cover the candidate campaigning with voters.”
In offering criticism of the Democratic front-runner, Todd declared: “I think how the Clinton campaign went about doing this seemed to, I think, backfire. And this is sort of what’s head scratching to me...they've done this for 25 years. How is Clinton not used to this? How do they not have a better plan to deal with this?”
Later that morning on Meet the Press, Todd completely ignored the controversy. By contrast, both ABC’s This Week and CBS’s Face the Nation mentioned the incident.
On Saturday’s NBC Nightly News, correspondent Kelly O’Donnell provided Clinton campaign talking points on the subject: “Secretary Clinton’s been walking at a more aerobic pace in this parade and this rope has been used to try keep people moving to keep that pace. Part for security and part to keep her going. Clinton staffers said the rope made it easier for Clinton to be seen by voters and her supporters.”
O’Donnell did highlight: “A small but persistent group of protesters repeatedly shouted at her along the way. Clinton walked the nearly mile-long distance, reluctant to discuss her detractors.” A soundbite followed of O’Donnell asking: “Secretary Clinton, did the protesters rattle you at all?”
After Clinton refused to answer, O’Donnell added: “Moments later, Clinton gushed about her experience.” A clip ran of Clinton proclaiming: “It was fabulous. You know, I love parades, I love walking in parades. We’ve had such a great response. A lot of enthusiasm and energy to celebrate the 4th of July.”
On Monday’s Today, co-host Matt Lauer provided the toughest coverage of the event:
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's campaign caused a stir when they roped the press off during a fourth of July parade up in New Hampshire. Campaign staffers said they did it so Clinton would be more visible to parade-watchers. But their decision also kept the press at bay when protesters began shouting critical comments about Benghazi and her e-mails. The New Hampshire GOP called the move, quote, “arrogant and shameful behavior.”
However, Lauer quickly touted the campaign dismissing the issue: “Hillary's campaign responded by saying, ‘While the GOP may want to spin a good yarn on this, let's not get tied up in knots.’ A little play on events there.”
On Monday’s CBS This Morning, correspondent Julianna Goldman noted that the roping off of reporters “overshadowed” the event for Clinton, but parroted the campaign’s excuse: “Clinton’s campaign said the press became too disruptive during the parade and they didn't want reporters to get in the way of the candidate talking to voters.”
ABC’s Good Morning America did not cover the story on Monday, but did on Sunday.
Here is a transcript of Todd’s comments on the July 5 Today:
ERICA HILL: Meantime, Hillary Clinton spent the 4th campaigning of course. She was in New Hampshire, walked in a parade, along with a rope that’s getting a lot of attention. Her staffers say the rope was there so people could see her better. Kind of impossible, though, to ignore the optics of this one. To have your candidate roped off. Is that gonna backfire?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Clinton’s Rope Line; Was it Smart to Keep Candidate at a Distance?]
CHUCK TODD: It does. Look, the optics look terrible. Look, I am sympathetic to the campaign's complaint. She has a large media horde following her around that it makes it hard because of the media for her to interact with voters. And I think there is a fine line there. And we as journalists, when you're covering a candidate who is campaigning for the support of voters, we should be there to cover the candidate campaigning with voters. But I think how the Clinton campaign went about doing this seemed to, I think, backfire. And this is sort of what’s head scratching to me, Erica, they've done this for 25 years. How is Clinton not used to this? How do they not have a better plan to deal with this? I think they need to-
HILL: Question a lot of people were asking.
TODD: Yeah, they need to go back and fix that.
HILL: Alright, Chuck, thanks.