Mary Burke, the Democratic challenger to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, did not allow members of the press to speak with people in the crowd at her rally in Milwaukee, Monday. One reporter later posted an account to her Facebook page, noting “never seen anything like it in 35 years as a reporter covering dozens of political events.”
Michelle Obama turned up to stump for Burke and her aides also forbade reporters from speaking to people.
Many Reporters in the United States – even those working for mainstream newspapers and news channels that strongly endorsed Barack Obama for the Presidency and have been mostly loyal to him since then – have often noted that his administration is the most secretive they have ever known; certainly, the most hostile in dealing with the press.
A reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Meg Kissinger, was told by an aide to Burke, and also by a White House aide, that reporters were not allowed to speak to people who had gathered to hear the Democratic candidate and the First Lady speak. A number of attendees complained that there were not enough chairs. A section for reporters had been cordoned off and members of the press were even forbidden to provide extra chairs for people who had nowhere to sit.
Writing in the Journal Sentinel Monday, Kissinger recounted how “Burke and White House staff also told reporters not to talk to people in the crowd before the event.”
In her Facebook post, the reporter wrote that she was “creeped out” by the press censorship. “That is what reporters do in America: we speak to people.” she continued. “At least that’s how I’ve been doing things – at all kinds of political events – since 1979.”
Burke, whose jobs plan was recently discovered to have been plagiarized from a plan put together for another Democrat, is currently running close to Governor Walker in the polls, with the election just weeks away. While the First Lady stumped for Mary Burke Monday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also traveled to Wisconsin to throw his support behind Scott Walker. Speaking to a crowd of the Governor’s supporters, Christie took a swipe at Burke’s jobs plan fiasco. “If you can’t trust her honesty and her integrity when she tells you this is her plan, why would you trust her on anything else she tells you about what she’ll do for Wisconsin…?” Christie said.
In the final weeks before the election, which will take place on November 4, Walker may have some good news, having consistently held an almost indiscernible lead over his challenger; in the latest poll from Marquette University Law School, the incumbent leads his Democratic opponent by a margin of 50 percent to 45 percent among likely voters; a lead that is, for the first time in the race, greater than the margin of error for the poll.
Burke may already be pinning her last hope for victory on the anticipated arrival in Wisconsin of Barack Obama. With the President himself suffering from disastrous opinion poll numbers, however, such an endorsement may not have the desired effect. Not withstanding her campaign’s recent problems with plagiarism, Wisconsin voters might do well to ask themselves why Mary Burke censors the press at her own rallies: When any politician forbids reporters from talking to ordinary citizens, it can only mean that they have something to hide.
Opinion by Graham J Noble