CNN's media critic Howard Kurtz made the ludicrous assertion that reporters shouting loaded questions outside of a sacred site in Poland were still a "model of decorum" compared to Mitt Romney aide who cursed at them to "show some respect" for the place.
"So, the press doesn't look so great there in Poland, but the reporters were a model of decorum compared to Rick Gorka, the Romney spokesman, who later apologized for the kiss crack," Kurtz began his segment on Sunday's Reliable Sources.
Kurtz excused that it "was the last stop of the trip and reporters weren't going to have another crack at Romney. And they were about 20 yards away, so they had to shout."
"But the print reporters can barely get a break here," he added after noting the campaign took 150 questions from television reporters on the Europe trip.
One of his guests, Michael Shear of the New York Times, opined that if the campaign provided more access to reporters, the scene would have been more positive. "[H]ad they taken just a few minutes with some of those reporters, maybe done a little press avail, 15 minutes every single day, they probably would have avoided that scene."
Shear should reflect on his own record before suggesting Republicans give such access to reporters who will exaggerate a candidate's gaffes and hammer away at them.
In 2006, Shear spun then-Senator George Allen's "Macaca" reference into a career-threatening stumble as his "Macaca Moment." He was at it again this summer when Allen became the Republican nominee for Senate.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on August 5 on Reliable Sources at 11:02 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
HOWARD KURTZ: All right. So, the press doesn't look so great there in Poland, but the reporters were a model of decorum compared to Rick Gorka, the Romney spokesman, who later apologized for the "kiss" crack. But who's to blame for this deteriorating relationship with the media?
Joining us now in San Francisco, Debra Saunders, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle. And here in Washington, Michael Shear, political reporter for The New York Times. And Bill Press, host of Current TV's Full Court Press.
Michael Shear, that was the last stop of the trip and reporters weren't going to have another crack at Romney. And they were about 20 yards away, so they had to shout. But was that scene a symptom of a deteriorating relationship?
MICHAEL SHEAR, The New York Times: Well, I think it was definitely a symptom of a problem on the trip in which the campaign had made the conscious choice to put Romney in interviews with television anchors, but to keep him away from the reporters that were traveling with him. And what they I think discovered by the end was that, had they taken just a few minutes with some of those reporters, maybe done a little press avail, 15 minutes every single day, they probably would have avoided that scene.
KURTZ: On Friday, perhaps responding to this criticism, Romney did hold a press availability in Las Vegas. But Debra Saunders, when he goes to three different countries and news organizations are spending all this money to send reporters on the trip, and they get a grand total of three questions, does that in your view affect the tone of the coverage?
DEBRA SAUNDERS, The San Francisco Chronicle: Yes, it does. In fact, Governor Romney was in California recently. He went to Solyndra. I was on the press bus. And they had this order that we couldn't tweet before we got to Solyndra. I mean, it's just sort of silly stuff that they do. People pay a lot of money to follow these things, to be on the road with him. And they get angry. And it's not a smart way to deal with the press.
Having said that, I think we in the media look ridiculous the way we're covering this race. We're doing so many gaffes. And we ought to be talking about the real reason why we're doing it. We're understaffed, and we're overworked. And if we can get him to do something we call a gaffe, we can just write a really quick, easy story. It doesn't require a lot of research. It's like a rewrite job. There's a big demand, our editors are asking for more and more stuff from us. So, they want what we call "content." It isn't really. So, we keep looking for these gaffes. And the Romney campaign knows it. And so you've got this level of distrust on both sides – journalists who feel that they're being overhandled, and the Romney people who feel that they can't get a fair break from the pack.
KURTZ: Now, the Romney campaign, Bill Press, says that he took 150 questions from television reporters on that trip. In fact, Gloria Borger of CNN just interviewed him yesterday. But the print reporters can barely get a break here.