"To R.C. Hammond, I Say This: U Can't Touch This."

"To R.C. Hammond, I Say This: U Can't Touch This."

"To R.C. Hammond, I Say This: U Can't Touch This."

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 18 2012 7:53 PM

"To R.C. Hammond, I Say This: U Can't Touch This."

I have an Explainer up now answering a question that occured when a student journalist was blocked from quizzing Newt Gingrich: Errr, ahhh, why is the secret service still protecting a guy who, by his own admission, can only win the Republican nomination if the convention descends into third-act-of-Ghosbusters-style chaos?

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post. 

Clipped from the piece: This recollection from the journalist, Memet Walker. Read it below the fold.

Advertisement

Gingrich's people are right, that during the open press avail, I threw in a question with the other reporters before my one-on-one with the speaker began. I asked, "Have you asked Santorum for an endorsement?" to which the speaker replied, "Not yet." I didn't know I wasn't allowed to speak at the open press avail (I thought a even a student reporter counted as press), but I did ask my question politely, not shout it, which the audio will demonstrate. His aide tells me to wait until we start walking (that's when I was going to have my one-on-one). I do, and stop the tape. 

The second recording is from a few moments later, after we walked away from the press avail, and I started asking my questions.You will hear Andrew somewhere in the first clip saying to start asking my questions when we walk, which I did. He never said wait to be introduced. But he reiterated – several times that afternoon – how little time I had, and to have my questions ready.

Two sticking points: After re-listening to the audio, Andrew says, "You don't do that. You're done." I had quoted him as saying "You're not asking that. You're done." His voice is quiet on the tape, and I was listening to it on my recorder speaker when I did the article, as well as going by my own memory of what had happened. I'm sorry that happened. I'm not sure how much it changes anything.  

Here was my first and only question during my time to ask the Speaker questions away from the press avail: "Roger Ailes was at UNC last week, he had some kind of bad words. He said that you're bitter- that you're just mad that – "

At that point, Gingrich says he has no comment, and the aide ends the interview.

Now, I did attribute the "bitter" comment to Roger Ailes in the question – that actually came from the Fox News statement, not Ailes. I was trying to ask about both that and Ailes' comments at UNC about Fox terminating his contract, and Gingrich being upset he wouldn't be able to get back on Fox as a contributor. But I guess I was nervous, trying not to just read from my paper. I cut myself off and start to correct myself, that's when I'm cut off by Andrew. 

Advertisement

In my defense, though, it's important to remember that Hammond nor Andrew ever claimed my question was inappropriate, just my tone, and that I was "shouting" at the speaker. The tape will definitely dispute that. 

Lastly, after seeing some of the feedback on my column – and various other news sites – one thing I want to reiterate it is that I was never "pushed aside" or rough-handled by the Secret Service agents in any way. They were completely professional. I understand that if an aide wants to end an interview and let the speaker leave without being followed anymore, more than likely, S.S. agents are on orders to stop and keep me back. Which they did, by grabbing a hold of me from behind, and holding me briefly until the speaker was about ten to fifteen feet away. I don't fault them in anyway for what happened on Saturday, and I would ask others to do the same. 

On the tape, you'll hear one of them tell me to stay where I am, when Gingrich and the aide move away. 

I invite you or anyone to talk to people I've interviewed at my time at the Daily Tar Heel. If anyone says I was ever rude, loud or inappropriate with my questions, I would be shocked. But I still wouldn't yell at them. 

Advertisement

In fact, Brenda Formo, a Republican activist and former army colonel who I ran into at the Gingrich event, told me that day how fair and accurate she thought I had been in my coverage of another GOP event she had attended:

I had interviewed her for that piece; she also thanked me for accurately quoting her. 

R.C. Hammond said "facts not fiction, kid." To R.C. Hammond, I say this: U Can't Touch This.

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post.