BOSTON, Mass. – It’s been 87 days since Hillary Clinton held a press conference, months longer than any other presidential candidate left in the 2016 race.
Taking questions from a traveling press corps is standard for any presidential candidate, especially once early states get underway and voters head into the critical Super Tuesday contests. But in a campaign that has been plagued by access issues, many of the reporters covering Clinton are frustrated and wondering whether this pattern will continue.
The Clinton campaign argues that pressers aren’t as important when the candidate is doing regular interviews with local and national print, television and radio outlets.
"Since the beginning of December, she's done over 160 interviews for a total of more than 26 hours, including with those that travel with her,” Nick Merrill, Clinton’s traveling press secretary, told NBC News.
"She also took over 500 questions from the public in town halls last year alone, an ongoing conversation that ranged from how to raise wages to bullying to autism to her faith. That's a lot of time answering questions, and it's been an central part of this campaign.”
Clinton’s last media availability took place on December 4 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She took seven questions from a small group of journalists on a Friday night.
In the three months since, Clinton has held hundreds of events across more than 20 states. She did not formally answer questions from her traveling press corps once during that time.
As a result, reporters bombard Clinton on the rope line in the hopes of having a question acknowledged. That rarely happens amidst the incessant selfies and Secret Service officers keeping cameras at a distance. Organizers also tend to blast music after Clinton’s remarks so--in the rare event that she does answer a question--it’s hard to hear her response.
Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have all held press conferences in the last week.
Sanders, who is admittedly media-averse, has held seven gaggles in the month of February alone.
Since Iowa, Cruz has taken questions 14 times. Rubio and Kasich have each held at least 17 press availabilities.
Reporters that cover Clinton travel on a separate plane, another major difference from the remaining candidates for president.
Sanders travels with his press crops and sometimes wanders to the back of the plane to answer a few questions. His wife, Jane, does the same.
Accessibility has been a problem for Clinton since she launched her campaign last April. After announcing, Clinton spoke with several local outlets, but didn’t sit down for a national interview until July. Since then, she’s done significantly more appearances but has yet to face reporters in a press conference in 2016.
The issue of press access specifically came to the forefront last summer, when staffers used a rope to corral reporters following Clinton as she marched in a 4th of July parade in New Hampshire.
The pattern is emblematic of the questions Clinton continues to struggle with over trustworthiness. She’s been asked about this repeatedly and always gives a version of the same answer.
Whether responding to questions about the ongoing FBI investigation into her private email server or paid Wall Street speeches, Clinton maintains she’s doing the best she can and has been “as transparent as possible.”