New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich sought quote approval from the Hillary Clinton campaign following an interview with campaign manager Robby Mook, potentially in violation of the paper’s reporting policy, according to an email published by WikiLeaks.
Jesse Ferguson, the campaign’s deputy press secretary, emailed Mook (and campaign chairman John Podesta) in July 2015 with “quotes that Leibovich (New York Times) is intending to use from your conversation with him unless we see a problem.”
The email included the following (bland, uncontroversial) paragraphs from Leibovich.
I asked Robbie Mook about the challenge of keeping Clinton supporters “excited,” given how familiar Clinton is. “I take issue with the excitement question,” he told me, noting that they have “more social media activity than any other candidate.” Every day, he said, the campaign thinks about answering the question of “who’s gone be that tenacious fighter for you?”
I asked Mook how the campaign would go about bridging the gap between the candidate’s cautious persona and the private “Hillary I know” that her loyalists swear by. “What I worry about is us getting up in our heads too much and trying to manufacture one thing or another,” Mook told me. “My priority is letting her take her time to get out there, let the voters see who she is, rather than some Wizard of Oz, how do we tinker with this or that.”
Not surprisingly, Ferguson argued that neither paragraph was “‘problematic’ enough that I think we would veto his use of them at this point. They’re both on message.”
The New York Times banned “quote approval” in 2012, in a memo from then-editor Jill Abramson. The practice “puts so much control over the content of journalism in the wrong place,” the executive editor told the paper’s public editor in an interview. “We need a tighter policy.” Abramson went on to say that quote approval, if allowed to continue, would lead to “control and manipulation.”
It is unclear whether current NYT honcho Dean Baquet has reversed the policy — or whether an exception has been made for the Clinton campaign.
Leibovich’s piece, titled “Re-Re-Re-Reintroducing Hillary Clinton,” ran in the July 19, 2015 issued of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Both paragraphs cited in the email appear in the final version of article, albeit in slightly revised form:
There are plainly concerns within the Hillary camp about an ‘‘enthusiasm gap,’’ especially given the recent crowds, money and attention Sanders has been drawing. When I asked Mook about the challenge of keeping Clinton supporters excited, given how familiar the candidate is and the glide path she appears to have to the nomination, he became defensive. ‘‘I take issue with the excitement question,’’ he told me, noting that they have ‘‘more social media activity than any other candidate.’’ He added, again, ‘‘I take issue with the premise of your question.’’
Mook projects a confidence belying his age and the stresses of his job. As the campaign manager, he sits in the bull’s-eye within the many circles of insanity that ring Planet Clintonia. (Actually, Mook does not sit, as his office is equipped with a standing desk.) What impressed me was how he dispatched my question about reconciling the divide between the candidate’s cautious persona and the private ‘‘Hillary I know’’ that her disciples swear by. ‘‘What I worry about is us getting up in our heads too much and trying to manufacture one thing or another,’’ he told me. ‘‘My priority is letting her take her time to get out there, let the voters see who she is, rather than some Wizard of Oz.’’
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