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Clinton campaign bans national pool reporter from N.H. events

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made a campaign stop at the YMCA in Rochester, N.H., on Monday.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made a campaign stop at the YMCA in Rochester, N.H., on Monday.Brian Snyder/REUTERS

Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign Monday banned a representative from the national print pool from attending any of her events in New Hampshire, a development that will make coverage for her trip to New Hampshire spotty for some of the country's largest print outlets.

The campaign team for Clinton, who is a former US secretary of state, is not allowing a reporter from the Daily Mail, a London news outlet, to have access to her events. Nick Merrill, a Clinton campaign spokesman, said that the campaign is getting "blowback" from foreign outlets. Foreign outlets have not been granted access to some Clinton events because the campaign wants to give preference to US publications.

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"We need to rethink it all, maybe for a day," Merrill told David Martosko, a reporter for the Daily Mail, according to the reporter's account of the conversation sent to other outlets in the national pool. "And just cool things off until we can have a discussion."

The flap is the latest flashpoint between the Clinton campaign and the political press corps.

Until Monday, Clinton had only answered a handful of questions from the press, and over the weekend sat for her first interviews since she declared her candidacy in mid-April. Her near universal name recognition sets her apart from other political candidates who typically seek news coverage to promote their campaigns.

Clinton took questions from the press Monday for nearly 20 minutes, by far the lengthiest press availability she has had so far.

Frosty relations between the press and the Clintons go back to two decades -- to Bill Clinton's first term in the White House. Hillary Clinton describes clashes with the media over the White House Travel Office, the death of Vince Foster, Clinton's impeachment among other flaps in her biography "Living History." During her 2008 presidential campaign reporters were regularly reamed by Clinton press aides.

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The current Clinton team press team has -- until now -- forged a more respectful relationship with the press. But access to the candidate for journalists and voters has been mostly non-existent. Clinton's team has said she will do more open events and interviews now that the campaign had its launch rally in New York.

Clinton held a public even in Iowa over the weekend -- her first in that state.Speaking to a group of about 70 supporters in Burlington on Sunday evening, Clinton addressed some of the concerns activists have voiced about access to her.

"I know people are anxious to get to the razzle dazzle and the big rallies all of that," she said. "But I want to hear people. I want to know what is actually happening so that I can come up with proposals that may actually change people's lives."

The intense media interest in the Clinton campaign prompted the campaign to request that the media form a pool for coverage. In the pool, a group of roughly a dozen outlets take turns traveling to cover Clinton in small, closed events and write reports off her remarks. The dispatches are first shared by e-mail with the outlets participating in the rotation, and then sent at the end of the day to all interested news outlets.

The pool was organized by the participating media, not the Clinton campaign. Any print outlet that commits to join the traveling rotation can join. It's currently being run by reporters from Buzzfeed and Politico.

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Merrill said the Daily Mail reporter was denied because the campaign is trying to follow White House conventions for pooled coverage. The Daily Mail has not been added to the White House's regular print pool, which is controlled by the White House Correspondent's Association. The publication does have a regular White House correspondent with a so-called "hard pass" that allows her access to the West Wing and had to be approved by the White House.

Martosko, the Daily Mail reporter, used to be the executive editor of the conservative Daily Caller. He's won numerous national reporting awards including a 2012 Edward R. Murrow Award award for writing that he shared with another reporter.

On Monday evening, the news organizations representing Hillary Clinton's traveling press pool released a statement on the matter, underscoring "the pool is open to any print organization willing to take part."

"We would like to see all campaign events open to the public and the full press corps, but when that is not possible we have agreed to pool coverage," said the 14 news organizations. "We haven't yet had a clear explanation about why the pool reporter for today's events was denied access. But any attempt by the campaign to dictate who is in the pool is unacceptable."

The Boston Globe, which participates in the Clinton traveling press pool and the White House pool, has access to Clinton's events today because the Clinton campaign selected a reporter from the paper was selected as a member of a so-called local pool. The Globe's circulation area includes New Hampshire. Additionally, several other national outlets were invited to the pooled events, along with wire services, which typically are always with the candidate.

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Clinton held three events today, and two of them are open only to pooled coverage. Those include a forum in this morning in Rochester, N.H., on early childhood education and a dinner this evening in Manchester. Clinton is set to give the keynote address at the Manchester City Democrats Flag Day Dinner.

When Martosko showed up at their first event in Rochester, he said he was denied access inside the YMCA of Strafford County by a "Secret Service agent." When he requested to use the restroom, the agent told him the area had already gone through a security sweep and he should "hit the woods."

Unlike her Democratic rivals, Clinton's campaign has only held a handful of public events since she announced her candidacy – meaning access to the smaller or pooled events are critical to understanding how she's formulating positions.

For example, on Sunday, Clinton gave a full explanation of her position on trade Sunday evening at a small house party in Burlington, Iowa. She also foreshadowed this morning's Rochester forum by saying the campaign will focus on early childhood education.


Annie Linskey can be reached at annie.linskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @annielinskey.