I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Gov. Bill Richardson tries to give the media the slip — says he’ll take questions but doesn’t say much
Gov. Bill Richardson tried to give the press the slip Wednesday when it became apparent some potentially uncomfortable questions were headed his way.
The story is a little convoluted, so I’ll hit the highlights: the governor makes promises at the day’s first stop to take questions at the day’s second stop, which takes place in an auditorium that unbeknownst to reporters has a side door that the guv and his entourage then use to dodge the pesky scribes who chase the governor but who are left in the dust of his black SUV as it squeals away before a question is shouted out.
The slip was a troubling development in a day that had started off quite innocently.
Richardson, coming off a bad few days public-relations wise, scheduled three public events Wednesday in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque for what his press office no doubt thought was good news: to break ground for a Hewlett Packard plant in Rio Rancho, to announce that ReelzChannel will re-locate its headquarters to New Mexico; and an event to unveil landscaping at the Big I at the junction of I-25 and I-40 in Albuquerque.
Unfortunately for the guv and his press office, the day admittedly didn’t start off great. News broke late Tuesday night that his ex-Chief of Staff Dave Contarino figures into the federal investigation that cost Richardson a cabinet post in President-elect Barack Obama’s administration.
Those of us in the media kind of knew the guv wouldn’t be a happy camper and might refuse to answer questions as he has done before.
So it came somewhat of a surprise when the guv, leaving the day’s first stop, said he’d take questions at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, the host of the day’s second stop.
Here’s a blow-by-blow exchange.
“Can you take questions on …,” I said as Richardson tried to get into his black SUV waiting to whisk him away from the groundbreaking to the ReelzChannel announcement in Albuquerque.
“Next one,” the governor said, waving his hand.
“OK, next one,” I replied, believing him.
At that moment, a KOAT-TV reporter interjected, “Can I ask you Mr. Governor,” at which point one of Richardson’s press aides informed the TV reporter that questions would be taken at the second event.
Well, as you’ve no doubt gathered, that’s not exactly how it turned out.
At the next stop, the governor, and several other speakers, spoke glowingly of the just-in news that ReelzChannel would re-locate its headquarters to New Mexico. The event’s planners even brought in movie critic Leonard Maltin to sing the praises of the relocation, which, honestly, was kind of cool.
The media dutifully waited at the back of the auditorium for the event to come to a close because the governor and his aides clearly had said he would take questions. Usually this is how it works. The governor walks to the bank of TV cameras and takes questions.
But this time the governor slipped out a side door at the front of the auditorium, provoking much bad language from at least one reporter who, along with a gaggle of other reporters, quickened his pace — and then ran — to catch the governor.
Once outside, all the media saw was a moving black SUV.
We in the media dutifully piled into our cars, some of us still cursing — OK me still cursing — to head toward the third event, which fortunately for us was held under New Mexico’s bright blue sky at the Big I with no secret escape routes. Which, of course, meant Richardson had to take questions. But he obviously is proud because he didn’t say much of anything, and even refused to answer one question that was asked of him six times.
I guess here’s the lesson learned. Don’t believe Richardson when he says he’ll take questions at the next event. Ask him now.