HOUMA, La. — Newt Gingrich’s campaign held a press availability after an appearance at Big Al’s Seafood Restaurant in Houma. But national press weren’t allowed in, only local media — a practice that the has become more common lately in Gingrichland.
Campaign press secretary R.C. Hammond barred the national press corps from entering the avail, standing in front of the room where it was to be held. When reporters asked him why they weren’t allowed in and local media were, Hammond responded, “Because you ask the same questions every day” and called them “complainers.”
His feelings toward the corps seemed even less measured when he tweeted a picture of Ginger Gibson, Politico’s Gingrich reporter, with a caption saying she was having a “tantrum”:
â€” R.C. Hammond (@rchammond) March 22, 2012
Hammond told BuzzFeed that limiting the avail to local press was more a matter of including them than of excluding the national press corps who track Gingrich’s every move. He related an anecdote about a press conference the campaign gave in Iowas where big names from TV showed up, and a local reporter was too intimidated to ask a question.
“So we decided we’ll just start making time for local media wherever we go,” Hammond said. “These guys get plenty of access to him, they see him all the time. It’s not a matter of whether or not the national press corps has access to Newt, they do.”
His objections, however, may be more to his own candidate’s lack of discipline than to the press. Gingrich has been unable to avoid engaging in self-defeating monologues about obscure matters of process and personal grievance, and engaging in extended colloquies with television figures on the campaign trail like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
Members of the national press corps say their opportunities to ask questions to Gingrich, who is running for president of the United States, have been limited in recent days, and that the campaign has held what one reporter described as “secret avails” with other reporters after they’ve gone back on the bus. Gingrich hasn’t held a full availability with national press in weeks.