OMAHA, Neb. – Mitt Romney often carves time out for local news interviews before campaign events, but he grew visibly annoyed with the questions reporters asked him Wednesday just outside Denver.
During one of several local news interviews he conducted prior to a campaign event in Colorado, Romney was asked, among other topics, about gay marriage and legalizing medical marijuana, questions that prompted him to reprimand the reporter.
“Aren’t there issues of significance that you’d like to talk about?” Romney asked the CBS affiliate in Denver when asked about legalizing the drug.
The reporter interjected, “This is a significant issue in Colorado.”
“The economy, the growth of jobs, the need to put people back to work, the challenges of Iran, we’ve got enormous issues that we face, but go ahead, you want to talk about medical marijuana,” Romney said.
Romney laughed about the run-in this morning during an interview on Fox radio.
“She asked two or three questions about same-sex marriage and civil unions and then medical marijuana and I finally laughed and said, ‘You know, there are some really big issues out there like if Iran is going to get a nuclear weapon, how to change leadership in Syria, and what it’s going to take to get this economy going again,’” he said. “‘Don’t you want to ask about those?’ So we finally got around to that.”
Romney spokesman Rick Gorka said of the testy Denver interview, “National unemployment has been over 8 percent for a record 39 months, and Governor Romney is focused on talking to voters about his solutions to get the economy back on track.”
There are things Romney wants to talk about – the economy and President Obama’s stewardship of it – and there are things he’d rather not. And the campaign and the candidate go to great lengths to control when he gets questions and whether they’re coming from the national press corps, local reporters or conservative talk-show hosts.
Rarely a day goes by when the former Massachusetts governor and presumptive GOP presidential nominee does not call into a talk radio program or sit down with a local reporter. But news conferences with the traveling group of reporters that chart his every move are far less frequent.
This is certainly not the first time Romney, 65, has rebuffed reporters for asking questions. At a campaign event in October in New Hampshire, a reporter who kept asking Romney whether he believed Eric Holder should resign got a talking to by the candidate.
“Here’s the story. Hold on. I do media avails. And I answer questions that are important questions in the length that I want to do it. But what I don’t do is in a group like this stop and rattle off questions as we walk along because that way you don’t hear the full answer I’d like to give,” Romney said.
And Romney said something similar in March to told a reporter who asked about his adviser’s comments that compared his campaign to an Etch A Sketch. “I’m not doing a press conference right now, OK?” Romney said, turning to address the reporters who had sneaked into the rope line at the Maryland event.
Romney later did appear in front of reporters to answer that one question, refusing to take more questions from reporters and then growing annoyed again when reporters told him a news conference typically involves more than one question.
“Actually, this wasn’t an avail, it was a chance to respond to a question I didn’t get a chance to respond to,” Romney said, before ducking out of the room.
While Romney has not made himself overly available to the media, holding news conferences sporadically, there have been a few notable times where he has agreed to take questions asked of him on the rope line and out of his preferred media conference setting.
In late March, when news broke about the Trayvon Martin killing, Romney at first told reporters that he had already commented on the topic on a radio station, and wouldn’t do so again for cameras. When those reporters argued that an on-camera statement would really be best for the television networks, Romney could be seen consulting with his communications staff behind his parked motorcade.
Romney then re-appeared, an advance staffer handing him a microphone and the candidate allowing reporters to ask the question about Martin and giving himself the opportunity to go on the record – on camera – on the controversial case.
Romney called the killing a tragedy, but then walked away when reporters asked whether he thought the Department of Justice get involved in the case.
And last month, when reporters asked staff members whether the candidate would respond to the controversy surrounding women being allowed to join the Augusta National Golf Club, they were allowed to approach the rope line, where Romney was expecting the question. As the music that traditionally is blasted to the degree that little is heard of Romney’s interactions with supporters he greets was lowered, Romney looked straight at the cameras and answered the question.
“Of course,” women should be allowed to join the club, he said, before turning his back on reporters and continuing down the line.