Why Doesn't Hillary Clinton Have More Press Conferences? Clinton has come under attack from journalists and Donald Trump for her failure to have press conferences. There's a strategy — and a historic context, too.

Why Doesn't Hillary Clinton Have More Press Conferences?

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Think about a press conference. It can be really a moment of accountability when the public witnesses powerful politicians confronting sometimes inconvenient questions. As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton, such moments have been very few and far between.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Back in May, CNN's Jake Tapper took on the issue when Clinton called into his show.


JAKE TAPPER: It has been pointed out to me that it's been something like five or six months since you've held an actual press conference. Is that something you're going to remedy soon?

HILLARY CLINTON: Oh, I'm sure we will.

FOLKENFLIK: More than two months later, they still haven't. Clinton suggested there are other, better ways to hear from a candidate.


CLINTON: Look, I was shocked myself that I've done nearly 300 interviews. And they're not even sure they captured all the ones that I've done. But I believe that we do and we should answer questions. Of course I'm going to in many, many different kinds of settings.

FOLKENFLIK: Clinton may have a point. Yet when I asked her press office for an itemization of those 300 interviews and was promised a detailed reply, none arrived. Trump may attack the media daily, but he's almost always in it. And he puts on a fair number of full-on press conferences.


DONALD TRUMP: Thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: Late last month in Miami, Trump taunted Clinton.


TRUMP: So it's been 235 days since crooked Hillary Clinton has had a press conference.

FOLKENFLIK: Why that's the case may have something to do with this debacle back in March of last year, intending to address concerns about Clinton's use of a private email server for State Department matters.


CLINTON: I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously it hasn't worked out that way. Now I'm happy to take a few questions.

FOLKENFLIK: It did not end well.


CLINTON: Right - I...

DAVID SHUSTER: What about Ambassador Scott Gration being forced to resign?

CLINTON: David, I think you should go online and read the entire IG report. That is not an accurate representation of what happened.

FOLKENFLIK: Democratic consultant Lis Smith worked for Barack Obama in 2012 and Martin O'Malley this year. She says many candidates are too worried about making the wrong kind of news.

LIS SMITH: The longer you go without doing a press conference, the longer you give reporters the opportunity to come up with absolutely killer questions and the longer you give for reporters, you know, the ability to build up this simmering rage that you haven't held these press conferences.

FOLKENFLIK: Those who know Clinton point back to her time as Bill Clinton's first lady and political partner. Hillary Clinton felt badly treated by the press during various scandals and various setbacks. In this 1994 press conference, Clinton directly addressed her relationship with the media.


CLINTON: So I really was under the misimpression that if I answered them in Rochester or I answered them in St. Louis or somewhere else, that should be enough. And I just didn't understand enough about being accessible to all of you or being accessible in Washington.

FOLKENFLIK: Twenty-two years later, the discomfort lingers. In the meantime, Trump has been sabotaging himself - attacking a dead Army officer's parents, making easily disprovable claims, castigating other prominent Republicans. Lis Smith says reporters care about press conferences; most voters don't.

SMITH: That's a calculated risk they're willing to take. And as we're watching Donald Trump implode daily with his, you know, impolitics statements and gaffes, they're sitting back and laughing.

FOLKENFLIK: It's a golden rule of politics, Smith says. Don't get in the way when your opponent is busy doing your dirty work for you. David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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