What campaign in their right mind would ever try to assault a blogger?
Ken Cuccinelli demostrated pretty conclusively this evening that Steve Shannon lacks competence in what the Attorney General’s office actually does. When asked what divisions there are in the Virginia Attorney General’s office and what those divisions do, Steve Shannon dissembled at length and said the question he was asked was ‘playing a game of gotcha,’ refusing to answer, much to the amusement of the audience. You’d think that someone who was campaigning for a job might understand what that job actually is. You might also think that candidate wouldn’t have staffers start trying to attack anyone who might be interested in filming the questions posed by reporters after the debate. But we’re talking about the Steve Shannon campaign here. They seem to “exceed expectations,” one might say.
After the debate Steve Shannon spoke with supporters and I went up to film him, having filmed the entire debate, figuring it might make for some interesting cut-away shots or just maybe something interesting would happen. Manassas News & Messenger reporter Jonathan Hunley showed up and asked Shannon about the question he evaded, and that qualified as interesting to me. What was even more interesting was the behavior of some folks quite obviously working for the Steve Shannon campaign, who seemed unusually concerned that anyone would be interested in taping the quick interview of their candidate by a reporter representing our local paper.
One Shannon staffer didn’t even wait to find out who I might be before she started jostling me, hitting my camera, and trying to block my shot. Not satisfied that I wouldn’t answer and pollute with my own voice the difficult audio track for the shot, she immeditely started threatening me, shooting her flash into my lens (which could damage a camera at close range) and generally tried to make herself as much of a nuisance as possible. This woman had no idea whether I was working for a news outlet, or whether I was a “tracker” (which I’m not) but seemed so concerned that anyone with an ENG-style shoulder-mount camera similar in appearance to what news crews use would be interested in what Mr. Hunley was discussing with her candidate that she was determined to play a little game of scrimmage with me and then try to harm my equipment. Only I was about a foot and a half taller than she was, so that got difficult for her pretty quickly.
I understand deliberately trying to become a deliberate nuisance at a campaign event. It’s not something undertaken lightly, because if you deliberately act like an ass, it can come back to bite you. You don’t do it with people you don’t know, you don’t do it in a way that would look bad for the campaign, and you do it in a way that doesn’t seem mean-spirited. In this case, they didn’t know who I was, it looks darned spiteful, and was so baldly executed it makes the campaign look like a bunch of petty thugs. If you’re going to annoy someone, you at least smile, look like you’re making honest mistakes, and maintain a friendly (albeit annoying) dialogue instead of a threatening one. Because of the pitfalls of scewing up, I’ve never tried to make myself a pest to the opposition, because it’s too easy to cause problems. It’s just safer to let the potential opposition do what they want and trust your candidate will aquit of themselves well.
These folks apparently didn’t trust Steve Shannon would, even with the friendly News & Messenger. If Steve Shannon’s people were comfortable with how their candidate performed, they wouldn’t feel it necessary to protect their candidate from anyone documenting the candidate’s interactions with the local press. I can imagine a rare few situations where a candidate might not want to get filmed, but in a public venue after a debate has concluded and a mainstream media reporter is asking the candidate a question, is that really a time to start lashing out at a camera and the person running it, especially when you have no idea who that is? That sounds incredibly desperate to me.
When a campaign starts to agressively and physically disrupt the efforts by the media to document public campaign events, you know they’re not feeling very confident about what they’re doing. Normally, campaigns like to have someone cover what they’re doing. That kind of makes sense, after all. The press helps campaigns, whether that’s traditional media, or new media. The worst thing is for no media to talk about you when you’re running a campaign.
Other than my very brief wrestling match with a member of the Shannon campaign staff, a lot of interesting things happened during this debate. I’ll follow up on them with some additional footage and commentary later, but this by far seems to be the most memorable part of the event for me. I imagine most folks haven’t seen this version of “When Staffers Attack,” as I honestly haven’t seen it ever before myself. I figured modern campaigns just weren’t this stupid.
Steve Shannon’s campaign apparently is. I never would have imagined it to be, as I’ve never heard a bad thing about this guy and a lot of Republicans I know personally like him, but I guess there’s no substitute for personal experience.
UPDATE: Thanks to National Review Online for linking to this post and embedding the video!
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