Hillary Clinton Jokes About Fresh Start With the Press
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged her rocky history with the political press on Monday and said she hopes to turn over a new leaf as she heads into a new campaign season as she implored journalists to focus on telling substantive stories.
“My relationship with the press has been, at times, shall we say, complicated,” she said as she addressed an awards ceremony celebrating the late New York Times political reporter Robin Toner. Journalists filled the two-dozen tables at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, as did a few press-facing current and former White House staffers.
But as she prepares to launch her second presidential campaign and builds a press team that’s notably more cooperative than the one that worked for her in 2008, she conveyed that ready for a reset.
"I am all about new beginnings,” she said. "A new grandchild, another new hairstyle, a new e-mail account. The relationship with the press. So here goes: no more secrecy. No more zone of privacy. After all, what good did that do me?”
Then, she joked, with a hint that her transformation may not be a full one: "before I go any further, look under your chair, you’ll find a simple non-disclosure agreement my attorneys drew up. Old habits last."
Clinton started on a light note but turned more serious. "We and our democracy depend on you,” she said before urging the reporters in the room to follow Toner’s lead and write substantive stories about policy.
She conceded that “it has gotten even harder to do the kind of journalism that she did” as the country and the media have gotten more polarized, and technology has put new pressures on reporters.
“I think the stakes are really high,” she said, with too much political discourse taking place in an “evidence-free zone.” The realities of the industry make it difficult, but it’s important to try to "get us out of the echo chambers we all inhabit.”
“I believe we need more Robin Toners,” she added.
Toner covered politics and also had an emphasis in her reporting on health care policy. Her final interview with Clinton, in the fall of 2007, was about the then-
senator’s health care proposals during the Democratic presidential primary.
Monday is the fifth anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act and, while Republican Sen. Ted Cruz entered the presidential race vowing to repeal the law, Clinton said she hopes to improve the law, not dismantle it.
The questions to ask are "how to improve the ACA...how to build on the successes,” she said. “I’m well aware none of this will be easy,” she continued, but it will be even more difficult without people like those in the audience explaining the policies and personalities at play.
Clinton said the role of the press is to “hold us all accountable.” Still, she said, "those of us on the other side are not always going to be happy about what whatever it is you do but we understand in our more rational moments."