- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Now it’s Donald Trump who is avoiding holding a press conference.

The GOP presidential nominee for months mocked Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for failing to face the press, but Mr. Trump has now gone close to three months without a formal news conference himself.

His wife, Melania, is also overdue to hold a press conference to clear up questions about her immigration history — something Mr. Trump promised in early August.

While he still has a way to go before he matches Mrs. Clinton’s record of nine months without a press conference, Mr. Trump has opened himself up to the same kinds of attacks he used to level at her.

It’s also a major break from the primary season, when Mr. Trump was banging out news conferences on a regular basis.

David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, said the hard truth is politicians do news conference when they are convinced the reward outweighs the risk.

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Trump, like Hillary Clinton earlier, has no doubt concluded he has nothing to gain and perhaps something to lose by opening himself up to reporter Q and A,” Mr. Yepsen, who covered nine presidential races for the Des Moines Register, said. “He’s better off punching a message through on Fox and with friendly people there. He sets the agenda.”

Mrs. Clinton broke her 277 day media blackout in early September, bringing an end to the “hiding Hillary” email blasts from the Trump camp, as well as the daily reminders from the Republican National Committee, which kept a running tally online.

“Clearly one candidate is afraid of answering questions,” the RNC said at the time.

The Trump campaign on Wednesday did not respond to an email seeking comment on why he has not held a formal press conference since July 27 and why he has not followed through on his pledge to hold a press conference address his the immigration status of his Slovenia-born wife, Melania.

Reports this summer raised questions about whether she was authorized to work when she first arrived in the U.S. in the mid-1990s and did a modeling photo shoot. A Trump family lawyer also sparked questions about how she earned a green card signifying permanent legal status in the early part of the last decade.

Mr. Trump ridiculed the press for reporting on those questions, and promised his wife would clear things up.

“So she is going to have a little news conference over the next couple of weeks,” he said at a rally in early August in North Carolina.

“I said to her, ‘No, no, let it simmer for a little while, let them go wild, let it simmer, and then let’s have a little news conference,’” Mr. Trump said.

Mrs. Trump has all but disappeared from public view in the weeks since.

Instead, a Trump family lawyer released a statement saying he’d reviewed Mrs. Trump’s immigration file and concluded it was all in order. She had been authorized to work when she did her first modeling shoots in the U.S., and earned her green card because of her success as a fashion model.

As for himself, Mr. Trump has several times in recent weeks left reporters with the impression a press conference was coming — only to derail it.

Most recently, hours ahead of Sunday’s debate he called the press to talk about the fallout from lewd remarks Mr. Trump made in 2005 recording. But instead of taking questions he had reporters hear from several women who accused former President Clinton of rape or sexual assault.

He also avoided questions at an event at his new hotel in Washington last month after retreating from his “birther” campaign against President Obama.

Instead, Mr. Trump has generally confined his questions from the press to Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.

Even other Fox newscasters were miffed: Megyn Kelly last week criticized Mr. Trump for only appearing on select Fox programs. Mr. Hannity fired back, accusing Ms. Kelly of supporting Mrs. Clinton in the election.

While he’s avoided taking their questions, Mr. Trump continues to use the press in his campaign, making attacks on them a staple of his rallies.

“The media is simply an extension of Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” Mr. Trump said at a rally in Florida Tuesday. “It’s one of the biggest ways our system is rigged.”

Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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