Trump and Ganim: Lessons in When to Grant a Reporter Full Access…and When Not To

The last couple of days have provided some rather vivid examples of when it might be a mistake to grant a reporter full access to the workings of politics—or at least how to act when said reporter is present. One case involves the nation’s seat of power, the other a somewhat karmic situation in Connecticut.

 

Donald Trump and Joe Ganim in an undated photo. The two have more in common today.

 

Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” drops Friday and with it the jaws of just about everyone in Washington, DC. It contains salacious quotes from various people in the Trump White House and paints a picture of a not just dysfunctional cast of clowns but a back-stabbing, neurotic nuthouse.

Trump’s lawyers have sent a cease and desist demand to Wolff’s publishers, trying to prior-restrain publication of the book and threatening to sue. In response, the publisher moved up publication by four days. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders deferred commenting on the First Amendment implications of trying to kill the book.

 

 

Stephen Bannon has gotten the lion’s share of the attention as he is quoted in the book as saying about the infamous meeting with Russians in Trump Tower, “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor with no lawyers,” Bannon said, according to a copy of the book obtained by NBC News.

Bannon went on, “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately…The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” Bannon says in the book. Yikes.

For the record, Bannon has not claimed he was misquoted.

Sanders and anyone else in the administration can complain all they want about the book. But the fact is the book was written with the full cooperation of the White House! In essence, Wolfe—a well-known journalist—went to the White House and said, “I want to write a book about the inner workings of the White House. Whaddya say you give me full and free access.” To which the White House essentially said, “Sure, no problem.”

My first question is what kind of communications director would allow a reporter complete access to a political entity? Sure, reporters are sometimes embedded with public officials or groups such as the military but there are always ground rules for the access. It’s unclear what, if any, rules were in place. The principals in the book spoke freely to say the least.

Without unlimited space, I have to direct readers to this story listing many of the more stunning revelations or quotes in the Wolfe book.

I’ve been a reporter seeking access and I’ve been a communications director granting (conditional) access. Both are positions seeking an advantage—the reporter wants a newsworthy, exclusive story and the comms. director wants a story that puts his or her boss in the best possible light. It’s almost as though the latter didn’t exist in the Trump White House.

Closer to home, a decision by the campaign for a Connecticut gubernatorial candidate turned very embarrassing when the candidate’s driver thought it a good idea to drive like Jeremy Mayfield—an apropos comparison given the candidate is also a convicted felon.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, he of the seven-year stint in Uncle Sam’s hooskow, granted a ride-along to hometown newspaper reporter Neil Vigdor of the Connecticut Post (Hearst Connecticut Media) for Ganim’s trip to the state capital to launch his campaign for governor.

With Vigdor in the car, Ganim’s driver, Bridgeport Police Detective Ramon Garcia, pegged out at 100 mph according to the reporter and was pulled over by Connecticut State Police. The trooper failed to give Garcia even so much as a warning. Curious.

 

Photo by Hearst Connecticut media
Conn. state trooper pulls over car carrying Bridgeport Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Joe Ganim. The vehicle was traveling 100 mph.

 

Ganim’s decision to invite Vigdor along while his driver did his best Joie Chitwood impression was just part of what seems to be a snake-bitten roll-out of his campaign for the state’s highest office. A campaign Twitter account went live last Wednesday only to have the campaign pull it back, saying it was unauthorized.

There is something profoundly karmic about Ganim’s rough start to his campaign. Make no mistake, the guy is a crook—he ripped off the good people of the city of Bridgeport to enrich himself and his friends.

Think Ganim “made a mistake back in 2003?” Here’s what Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Chase Rogers wrote about Ganim’s corrupt conduct in denying him a reinstatement of his law license. “It was not an isolated instance of misjudgment, but rather, was extensive in scope, prolonged over a period of five years and marked by a consistent pattern of dishonesty, self- interest and violation of the public trust…The defendant’s misconduct was not the unfortunate missteps of a young and inexperienced attorney, but instead, was the calculated behavior of a mature, sophisticated attorney who served as the mayor of the state’s largest city.”

The people of Bridgeport were forgiving when they returned Ganim to the scene of the crimes in 2015, electing him mayor yet again. The good people of the great state of Connecticut are not that gullible. Or stupid.

Ganim is the King of Cojones. Not only is he running for governor, he went to court to get public financing for the run. His felony convictions disqualify him. He failed to convince anyone the people should pay for a felon to run for anything.

The lesson of the past two days seems self-evident: Don’t give a reporter access to your operation when it borders on a banana republic and don’t have your guy drive 100 miles per hour with a reporter in the back seat when you are trying to convince a state you’re not really a crook.

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