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Tensions boil over between Mitt Romney campaign and press corps

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 1 2012 8:43 a.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at the University of Warsaw Library in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, July 31, 2012.

Charles Dharapak, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrapped up his seven-day foreign trip Tuesday — but not before becoming enmeshed in the most contentious media controversy of an already volatile campaign jaunt that had already seen media dust-ups occur in England and Israel.

Tuesday morning in Poland, the American press corps covering Romney’s trip abroad was present when the Republican presidential candidate laid a wreath on the Poles’ Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The media members were already significantly frustrated because, as the Boston Globe reported Tuesday, “Romney (had) not fielded questions from the traveling press corps since last Thursday, when he was still in London. He (did) not make himself available to journalists on any of three charter flights since then, including two that lasted more than four hours.”

After the wreath-laying ceremony ended, a couple of reporters lobbed unsolicited questions at Romney. At that point, the interaction between the media and Team Romney veered sharply askew.

Politico’s Dylan Byers summarized, “Tensions came to a head in Warsaw today when reporters, increasingly aware that there would be no end-of-tour press (conference available) with the candidate, began shouting questions at Romney as he walked back to his vehicle. … ‘Kiss my (expletive); this is a holy site for the Polish people,’ shouted Rick Gorka, a traveling press aide who has tussled with reporters before. ‘Show some respect.’

"Gorka then told a reporter to ‘shove it.’ ”

Shortly thereafter, some of the traveling American journalists took to Twitter to express their discontent. For example, the New York Times’ Ashley Parker tweeted, “So it's official: Romney is leaving a 7-day foreign trip after answer only 3 Qs from the media”; while in a similar vein, Associated Press reporter Kasie Hunt tweeted, “Romney trip by the numbers: Three foreign countries, and three questions from the traveling press.”

Media controversy first occurred during Romney’s international adventure when the candidate seemingly angered all of England by using the word “disconcerting” to describe London’s problems with Olympic preparations. Then in Israel, Romney outraged Palestinian leaders by suggesting Israel’s culture is more conducive to economic viability than Palestine’s.

Despite the pattern of dust-ups, Romney steadfastly insisted during a Tuesday interview with Fox News that all the controversies were of the media’s making.

"I realize that there will be some in the fourth estate or whatever estate who are far more interested in finding something to write about that is unrelated to the economy, to geopolitics, to the threat of war, to the reality of conflict in Afghanistan today, to a nuclearization of Iran," he said. "They are instead trying to find anything else to divert from the fact that these last four years have been tough years for our country.”

For what it’s worth, the Power Line political blog concurred with Romney’s analysis. “Romney’s seven-day overseas trip has been successful, but its press coverage has been almost bizarrely hostile,” Power Line’s John Hinderaker wrote Tuesday. “I couldn’t find anything in today’s speech out of which reporters can gin up a controversy, but no doubt they will try.”

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