Hillary Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon is getting fact-checked by the campaign’s own traveling press corps after claiming Sunday that the Democratic presidential front-runner “oftentimes” takes questions from reporters on the trail.
In a cable TV interview Sunday, Fallon said “there’s no reluctance” to speak with the press, claiming Clinton often “comes out after an event has concluded” for what’s known as an “avail” – and “she'll literally stand there for 15, 20 minutes and answer questions from her traveling press corps.”
Fallon added: “Bottom line is that she's answering questions from the reporters that are covering her day to day.”
Only that’s not quite the case.
Clinton did answer questions from the press on Monday, on the sidelines of an event in Compton, Calif. But before that, a review of Clinton’s informal Q&A’s with the press shows her most recent took place May 9 -- nearly a month ago -- in Stone Ridge, Va., and lasted two-and-a-half minutes. She’s done a total of roughly 10 this year.
Clinton typically takes questions from the press at these “avails” for five minutes or less.
The list does not include formal interviews – which Clinton has been doing more of lately – or press conferences, which are a rarity for the Democratic candidate.
Reporters covering Clinton fired back at Fallon on Twitter over his claims, noting the Clinton Q&A’s are not as frequent or extensive as he suggested.
This explanation for Clinton's lack of press access to her traveling press corps is flatly not true. https://t.co/nnpNK5OBTH— Dan Merica (@danmericaCNN) June 5, 2016
Clinton rarely does avails, let alone of this length https://t.co/KewJVfMJfd— Liz Kreutz (@ABCLiz) June 5, 2016
The Daily Caller has catalogued additional criticism on that point from the producers and reporters covering Clinton.
On the heels of the pushback, a member of the press corps also attempted to ask Clinton a question – regarding Donald Trump’s controversial comments about a federal judge’s Mexican heritage – following an event Sunday night.
Clinton did not respond and continued taking photos.
Fallon commented on Clinton’s relationship with the press on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” at a time when she’s faced bipartisan criticism for not holding enough press conferences. Fallon acknowledged his candidate needs to do a “mix,” but stressed that she does interviews and suggested her gaggles with the press corps serve a similar purpose as a press conference.
“In terms of a definition of calling something an availability versus a press conference, oftentimes is just defined by whether you have a banner behind you or a podium in front of you,” he said.
Clinton’s last substantial press conference was held Dec. 4 in Fort Dodge, Iowa – and even that involved a session with a small group of reporters. With the last major primaries concluding Tuesday, Clinton is poised to clinch the nomination without having conducted a substantial press conference all year.
Last week, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump criticized Clinton’s thin press conference schedule, as he was taking heat over his contentious press conference in New York – the latest in a string of primary season press conferences the Republican has held.
The Bernie Sanders campaign also questioned Clinton on this front.
“I think there’s a lot of frustration among the media about her accessibility,” Jeff Weaver, campaign manager for the Democratic candidate, told Fox News last Wednesday.
Clinton told CNN last week she will hold a press conference soon.
“I believe that we do and we should answer questions. Of course, I'm going to,” Clinton said.
Fox News’ Tamara Gitt and Hillary Vaughn contributed to this report.