When Hillary Clinton abruptly departed a 9/11 ceremony Sunday because she felt ill, she did not take the media with her. She didn’t even tell the media.
A so-called protective pool of a dozen or so reporters has traveled with previous nominees of both major parties in part because they will witnesses history if anything should happen to the would-be president of the United States. But Clinton has long resisted allowing a group of reporters to follow her.
Clinton did not travel on the same airplane with the media until last week. And even though she allows them into her motorcade, the candidate still separates from them occasionally.
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Republican Donald Trump also has refused to let the media stay close to him with a protective pool. Last week, he said he would occasionally allow reporters aboard his plane.
“I'm surprised it's mid-September, just a little more than 8 weeks before Election Day, and neither candidate has a protective pool,” tweeted Robert Gibbs, who was Barack Obama’s campaign press secretary at this stage in 2008, before going on to be White House Press Secretary.
The sudden and unannounced exit from a very high profile event for a health problem illustrated why the news media feels it critical to be close to the major candidates, and perhaps why those candidates want to escape from scrutiny if something might be embarrassing. That was underscored by non-media video posted by Buzzfeed that showed Clinton stumbling as she tried to get into her car, being caught before she could fall.
Clinton, 68, felt ill Sunday at the ceremony commemorating the 2001 terrorist attacks at Ground Zero and departed for her daughter’s apartment in New York. The reporters were told about 90 minutes later where she was after repeated questions went unanswered.
“Secretary Clinton attended the September 11th Commemoration Ceremony for an hour and thirty minutes this morning to pay her respects and greet some of the families of the fallen,” campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said later. “During the ceremony, she felt overheated so departed to go to her daughter’s apartment, and is feeling much better.”
Clinton emerged before noon. “I’m feeling great, it’s a beautiful day in New York.” she said, walking out wearing sunglasses.
Later, the campaign declined to answer additional questions about whether Clinton consulted a doctor, what she was doing and even what time she got home.
Clinton’s tenuous relations with reporters stem to her time as first lady and extended into her first run for president in 2008. Even before she kicked off her campaign, she had hinted that she might make some changes, holding a pair of events before her announcement so reporters could get to know her staff.
“You know my relationship with the press has been at times, shall we say, complicated,”Clinton said in 2015 when she headlined a journalism awards ceremony. “I am all about new beginnings. A new grandchild, another new hairstyle, a new email account . . . why not a new relationship with the press?”
But the relationship hasn’t changed. She has routinely refused to take questions in contrast to other candidates of both parties and hadn’t had a formal news conference until last week in more than 250 days. So far, she has not allowed reporters into fundraisers and released less information about her donors than Obama.