After Romney paid tribute at the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, members of the traveling press attempted to ask about some of his perceived gaffes, only to be shouted down by the campaign's traveling press secretary.
"Kiss my ass. This is a holy site," Rick Gorka barked at one reporter. "Shove it," he said to another. Gorka later called two reporters and apologized.
Mitt Romney, in an interview with Fox News, accused the media of attempting to "divert" attention from more substantive issues by harping on his so-called gaffes overseas.
The issue is media “availabilities,” those moments when the candidate opens up to the not-so-famous journalists. Such moments have been rare, according to those who’ve been on the trip. Over seven days, say several sources, Romney took only three questions from the traveling media, all of them outside of 10 Downing St. in London.
While the gaffe patrol isn’t the only reason that the presidential campaigns are placing such tight limitations on the press, any discussion of those issues should acknowledge the role that the media’s seeming hostility toward Romney is playing in the coverage and in the access restrictions that have been imposed by his campaign. By early 2011, it was apparent that many reporters viewed Romney as inauthentic and were selecting anecdotes to report that were consistent with this narrative.
Romney’s poorly-received Feb. 24 economic speech at Ford Field in Detroit represented a low point in the press-campaign relationship, and served as a catalyst for the new direction. That day, reporters who asked the campaign for clarification on what new proposals would be embedded within the speech found no one at the campaign who would explain them.
Prior to the new, informal initiative the campaign’s press aides routinely ignored e-mails and phone calls from reporters, even on the most routine matters. Information about schedules and cities in which events would take place were closely held and often released with less than 24 hours notice.
A look inside the coverage also reveals that Romney endured more media "vetting" of his record and personal character than the other Republican contenders. Since November, just over 12% of the coverage in which Romney was a significant figure was devoted to those subjects. The press focused in particular on his wealth and his experience at the private equity investment firm Bain Capital.
After Romney’s tight victory in the Michigan primary on Feb. 28, news coverage about his candidacy became measurably more favorable and the portrayal of his rivals—particularly Rick Santorum—began to become more negative and to shrink in volume.
One main component of that shift in the narrative is that after Michigan, the news media began to view Romney’s nomination as essentially inevitable.