Saturday morning, as you may have heard, a few hundred political reporters got together at brunch before the White House correspondents dinner. Many of them brought guests -- political figures, celebrities, people like that.
Fox's Greta Van Susteren brought Todd Palin, perhaps because Joe The Plumber was unavailable.
So there they are, at brunch, when a Politico reporter starts to "chat" with Palin (or, depending on whose account you believe, to attempt to interview him.) Apparently Palin did not want to be interviewed.
So far, so good: There's nothing wrong with a reporter trying to interview someone, even at brunch. And there's nothing wrong with not wanting to be interviewed.
So Van Susteren jumped in and announced that the conversation was "off the record." Which was a little strange, since that request would normally be made by the interviewee (Palin) or his communications staff, not another journalist. That led some to describe Van Susteren as Palin's "handler," to which she took great offense.
Here's Van Susteren:
On Saturday morning (before the night's big dinner) I was at a social brunch (like everyone else in the media), and brought a guest like almost everyone in the media did. A Politico reporter came up to our Fox guest Todd Palin with a pad to take notes and interview Todd Palin (it says "started to chat" but that is not what happened or what was going on....no one is that stupid to believe that.) It was an attempt to interview him when he did not agree to it or ask for it - print paparazzi at a brunch /party!
If Todd Palin had said something about coming there for a social event (instead of me), you know what would have happened - he would have been trashed....which would have been unfair. The reporter may have been working - but he was not. He was at a social event and not looking to be ambushed by a surprise interview.
I did not bring a guest to be interviewed or grilled by the press but, like everyone else in the media, I brought the guest so the guest could meet people and have a good social time. And I certainly did not bring the guest so that Politico could interview him - I have enough friends in the business that I could do better if that were my motive....or I would have interviewed him myself. If you noticed, I did not interview him.
Here is another tidbit: our guest is NOT a candidate for office - and never has been a candidate for office. Our guest is a family member of a politician. Our guest was there to simply attend a social event.
So, when the Politico reporter started to interview my guest with pad and paper and I politely say this is a social event, off the record, I am suddenly a "handler?" a handler? Huh? Maybe I had just had good manners for a guest?
Now, there's quite a bit of defensiveness in there, quite a bit of it amusing. But let's focus on this: "The reporter may have been working - but he [Todd Palin] was not. He was at a social event and not looking to be ambushed by a surprise interview."
So, here's the thing: if Fox reporters are going to complain about people being "ambushed by a surprise interview," they might want to denounce Bill O'Reilly first. Otherwise, they look like frauds.
After all, Bill O'Reilly sent his goons to follow Amanda Terkel from her home to a weekend vacation, where they ambushed her with a video camera. (And that's just one of many examples.) Yet Greta Van Susteren is indignant that Todd Palin -- who voluntarily walked into an event that was lousy with reporters -- was approached by one of those reporters for an interview? Nobody followed Todd Palin; nobody shoved a camera in his face.
UPDATE: And, of course, Greta Van Susteren's husband is a Palin advisor. She must have just forgotten to mention that.