Last week when WNPR’s John Dankosky asked Governor Rell why she was the only public official never to appear for a full hour on his program “Where We Live,” the governor told him she was “unaware of the slight.” When she said that, she inadvertently opened a can of worms. How could the most powerful woman in the state not be told of that?
My experiences with Governor Rell have given and reinforced the impression that the governor is a honest person. I believe she told Dankosky the truth. That raises the question, why was she unaware of the slight? Surely her handlers would not have withheld an interview request from her, in this case, repeated invitations? I wonder what the governor said to her handlers after the Dankosky interview. Did it go something like this? “Alright, who didn’t tell me about John Dankosky’s repeated invitations to appear on Where We Live? ” Was the governor angry, or relieved?
Much has been made of the way this governor is tightly managed and handled. Channel 3’s Susan Raff approached the governor outside the capitol once and an aide cut her off, and said the ” governor isn’t taking questions.” Susan extended her microphone in the governor’s direction and asked the question anyway. Eyewitness News was once refused an on camera interview with the governor, but offered a telephone interview even though the governor was in her Capitol office and our crew was on the grounds. What was the reason? Was the Governor in her bathrobe or something? On principle, we wisely declined the telephone interview. Had the governor been out of state a phone interview would have been appropriate, but not when the elected official can peer out the window and see the camera.
In Dankosky’s case, he told me since Governor Rell came into office he has routinely invited her on his program for the complete hour and to take listener questions. Dankosky was sometimes given a definite “no,” sometimes no response, and after weeks without a response he would have to book other guests. Dankosky says the Governor came on his program once, but not for the hour, only 20 minutes and absolutely no listener questions.
Our quest to have a long form interview with the governor is similar to WNPR’s in terms of frustration. Only once has the governor appeared on Face the State, and her handlers made it clear to me before hand that she would not stay the whole half hour, only 10 minutes. I pushed it to 13 minutes. That was February of 2009. More on that here: http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/governor-rell-continues-to-freeze-out-reporters/
In early October, I sent an e-mail to the governor’s chief of staff Lisa Moody, inviting the governor to come on before the end of her term. Here is her response:
“I will certainly ask her directly – someone will be back to you shortly. Thank you”
No one ever got back to me.
To be fair, Channel 3’s Susan Raff was offered the standard 20 minutes in the governor’s office last week as part of a round of sendoff interviews, and it was heavily condensed into a 2 minute report for our newscast.
It is our policy to conduct all Face the State interviews in our studio, with few exceptions. Recently, we interviewed Senator Chris Dodd in his Washington office, but that was to mark the end of a 30 year senate career. In the past, the senator has come to our studios for Face the State, even during the height of Countrywide mortgage scandal.
As a rule we also don’t do satellite interviews for Face the State. The reason? If we do it for one person, we have to do it for everyone. During the2008 campaign, then Congressman Chris Shays declined our numerous invitations to appear on Face the State. His staff offered us interviews via satellite or at his home in Bridgeport. His challenger Jim Himes accepted every invitation with nary a complaint about the ride from Greenwich to the WFSB studios.
It is clear the Malloy administration will be much more media-friendly that the Rell adminstration. The governor-elect has appeared in the studios of all the local programs, and has indicated he wants to come in to tape Face the State as often as possible. To their credit, former gubernatorial candidates Tom Foley, Ned Lamont, Michael Fedele and Oz Griebel also promised a more open administration.
I’m personally disappointed the governor’s managers wouldn’t let her come on Face the State. I think it would a fair, comprehensive interview and I feel badly for our loyal Face the State viewers who are being denied the opportunity to see their governor in that forum.