- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hillary Clinton is 0-for-2016, having failed to hold any full press conferences this year — fueling the perception that she is the most guarded major candidate in recent political history, in stark contrast with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump has held at least four full, formal press conferences this year, including one Tuesday, and has fielded questions at length from the flock of reporters covering his campaign on numerous occasions.

Mrs. Clinton took questions from the press traveling with her campaign once, in Minnesota in March, but hasn’t held an organized press conference in six months.

“She tries to control media by rationing access. He tries to control media by setting its agenda with provocative posts and tweets that are then the focus of freely given interviews,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in political communication.

Mrs. Clinton on Tuesday acknowledged that she hasn’t held a press conference in nearly six months but promised that she would conduct one soon. She boasted that she has sat down for nearly 300 arranged interviews this year.

Mr. Trump, who has referred to the press as “scum” and “sleaze,” has shown a surprising willingness to answer questions in a press conference setting. He even holds press conferences almost solely to berate the reporters who cover him.

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On Tuesday, his question-and-answer session focused on media reports questioning whether he had donated as much money to veterans organizations as he claimed.

Asked by reporters whether they could expect similar tongue-lashings if Mr. Trump wins the presidency in November, the billionaire businessman was quick to answer.

“Yes, it is going to be like this,” he said. “And then we have to read probably libelous stories, or certainly close, in the newspapers and the people know the stories are false, I’m going to continue to attack the press. Look, I find the press to be extremely dishonest. I find the political press to be unbelievably dishonest. I will say that.”

Mrs. Clinton is at the opposite end of the spectrum, and analysts say voters can learn a lot about both candidates from their handling of the media.

“She engages in self-monitoring; he does not. Both play into a broader narrative. She is smart and knowledgeable but is an establishment figure, parses words, is hiding something, is inauthentic, untrustworthy,” Ms. Hall Jamieson said. “He says whatever comes to mind, doesn’t do his homework, is often inconsistent, is factually inaccurate, but what you see is what you get — authentic and someone who will shake up the politics of the status quo.”

Mrs. Clinton held a pseudo press conference in August to discuss the controversy around her private email server, but the event went poorly.

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The former secretary of state made a crack about wiping her email server clean “with a cloth or something,” boosting the notion that she wasn’t taking the scandal seriously.

She has apologized repeatedly for using her own email account, though she insists she broke no laws and did not endanger national security.

She held a formal press conference in New Hampshire in September and answered questions from reporters in Iowa in December. The Iowa event generally is considered to be her last press conference, though that, too, can be called into question because it was more of an unannounced question-and-answer session with a handful of reporters rather than a full press conference.

She went 87 days without answering any off-the-cuff questions before her brief March 1 press availability at a Minnesota cafe.

Since then, her media appearances have been only TV sessions with individual journalists, including a Tuesday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who asked whether she would hold a press conference soon.

“I’m sure we will,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Look, I was shocked myself that I’ve done nearly 300 interviews. … I believe that we do and we should answer questions. Of course, I’m going to [answer questions] in many, many different kinds of settings.”

While the difference plays into the notion that Mrs. Clinton is overly cautious, almost robotic in her dealing with the press and Mr. Trump is confident even in the face of hard questions, analysts say Mrs. Clinton’s strategy has one benefit.

“Unlike Trump, she understands the risks of off-the-cuff statements that can come back and haunt you. She wants to make sure she doesn’t make mistakes that will give her opponents ammunition against her,” said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

Mrs. Clinton’s unwillingness to answer questions publicly has even extended to presidential debates. Earlier this year, the former secretary of state agreed to debate Sen. Bernard Sanders in California ahead of the state’s June 7 primary election.

But Mrs. Clinton backed off of that commitment and turned down the debate, despite public pressure from the Sanders campaign and media outlets such as Fox News, which planned to sponsor the forum.

Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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