Politico‘s Jake Sherman reports today that House Maj. Leader Eric Cantor is considering nixing his weekly pen-and-pad for reporters and choosing select journalists for “smaller interviews.” He writes that the possibility comes after a multitude of complaints on what Cantor’s office is calling “mundane issues” from reporters, meaning media complaints about one another. He quotes a female aide, Laena Fallon, who Sherman peculiarly refers to as a “Cantor spokesman.”
All the complaining may end up doing all reporters who cover GOP Leadership a disservice. They range from print reporters arguing with TV reporters, TV reporters arguing amongst themselves, and radio arguing with periodical. This week, the Radio/TV Executive Committee pleaded with Cantor’s office to end the pen and pads and move them to the Gallery. They feel that the pen-and-pad is biased against their medium.
But even before all this formal griping, reporters have been noticing a diminishing of the weekly pen-and-pads for about a month. Cantor used to host briefings for reporters every week. Then three to four weeks ago, he suddenly stopped. Which was odd and noticeable, say Capitol Hill reporters who regularly cover him. This week, however, he resurrected the pen and pad on Monday, the very day that Lesley Stahl from CBS “60 Minutes” shadowed him. “Guess he wants to show her that he interacts with press,” cracked one reporter. Scribes noticed something peculiar about the Stahl visit. While Cantor’s office typically sends out the notice for the briefing one to two days in advance, this time they issued the alert that morning with just a few hours notice. “Seems someone in his office thought it would look good to have Leslie see him talking to reporters but didn’t think to do it until that day,” said the above scribe.
Another Capitol Hill reporter remarked that Cantor was “more jovial than usual” the day Stahl showed up.
The weather change has reporters talking and wondering what’s happening with the House Majority Leader. For example, is Cantor in the dog house again? Is he trying to hide something? The last time Cantor stopped having the pressers was this summer when he walked out of negotiations with the White House on debt ceiling.
FishbowlDC sought comment from Cantor’s Communications Director Brad Dayspring on the potential shutdown of the pen-and-pads and asked the following: “Why are the reporters’ complaints considered ‘mundane’ as stated by Fallon? And isn’t it showing favoritism or exclusivity by choosing ‘select’ reporters for meetings with House Maj. Leader Cantor?”
Dayspring replied to FishbowlDC: “We are weighing the criticisms and critiques of all of the various journalistic mediums and will work to find an appropriate path forward that best benefits all. A decision has not yet been made. The Leader will continue to participate in weekly press conferences when the House is in session and have regular interaction with the media. I don’t think many reporters on Capitol Hill would or could make the case that the Majority Leader has not been among the most open and accessible among his colleagues in the House or Senate.”
UPDATE: Reporters who asked were informed that Cantor missed two pen-and-pads — one to vote in the Virginia elections, the other because he was traveling and not in Washington on the first day back in time to do it. Those who inquired were also told that the next briefing would be held on the 14th. Not that they shared the news, but CBS was prepared to shoot the pen-and-pad for a month. The reasoning why some reporters didn’t learn about Monday’s presser until Monday: Fallon was out on Friday.