GORHAM, New Hampshire — Hillary Clinton’s campaign used a rope to keep journalists away from the candidate on Saturday while she walked in this small town’s Fourth of July parade.
The ensuing photos of journalists, including a CNN reporter, being somewhat dragged by a thin white rope as Clinton walked down Main Street caught fire online.
Initially, Clinton’s campaign was not using a rope to corral the press, allowing journalists to get close to her and ask her questions.
But campaign aides said they brought the rope out because they feared the press scrum of around a dozen reporters and photojournalists would obstruct the view of New Hampshire voters attending the parade.
The rope was held by two of Clinton’s advance staffers, who at times walked ahead of reporters, seemingly pulling them along the parade route.
“You guys, we are going to do 10 yards and a little more organized,” said one of the advance staffers after breaking out the rope.
In explaining why they were using the rope, the staffer said, “so maybe a voter could see her, that kind of thing.”
Clinton’s Secret Service detail also urged journalists to abide by the mobile rope line.
“You are not going fast enough,” one agent said when the rope tightened around a reporter’s waist.
Since the campaign launched in April, Clinton’s aides have tried to improve typically tense relations between the Clintons and the press, at times calling for a reset with reporters covering Clinton.
While the circus aspect of the event at times overshadowed Clinton’s time at the parade, the candidate did glad-hand with many supporters and New Hampshire voters. At one point, she spoke with a wheelchair-bound Marine and his mother. The Iraq veteran, who had a Marines blanket draped across most of his body, was injured by a grenade attack in March 2006.
Clinton walked away from the conversation somewhat shaken. “Whoa,” she said when CNN asked her about the interaction.
But in addition to the corralled media and New Hampshire voters excited to see the presidential candidate, Clinton was followed by one vocal protester with a sign that read, “Benghazi.” The older man, whose sign had fake blood spattered on it, continually shouted at the former secretary of state.
“Hillary, where were you at 3 a.m. when the phone rang on September 11?” he yelled, referring to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi that left four Americans dead. He also yelled “carpetbagger,” a reference to her 2000 Senate race in New York, and “Tell us when you were poor,” a reference to a 2014 comment about being “dead broke” when she and former President Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001.
As the protester continued to follow Clinton, volunteers from the campaign followed him, chanting “Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.”
Clinton was asked about the protesters, to which she responded, “I am just having a good time meeting everybody.”
Clinton rarely comes in such close contact with protesters. Although there are regularly protesters outside her events, few ever get within shouting distance of her, let alone close enough to get her attention like the man on Saturday.
But the Clinton campaign’s use of a mobile rope line was catnip for Republicans, who seized on the issue.
“We all knew Hillary Clinton was desperate to avoid the media after months of controversy, but employing a moving rope line takes ducking reporters to absurd new heights,” said Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “Clearly the Fourth of July for Hillary Clinton means independence from answering tough questions.”
The New Hampshire Republican Party also blasted an email to reporters.
“Clinton continues to demonstrate her obvious contempt and disdain for the Granite State’s style of grassroots campaigning. The use of a rope line at a New Hampshire parade is a sad joke and insults the traditions of our First-in-the-Nation primary,” New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Jennifer Horn said in a statement.
But the Clinton campaign fired back.
“While the GOP may want to spin a good yarn on this, let’s not get tied up in knots,” said Nick Merrill, the campaign’s traveling press secretary. “We wanted to accommodate the press, allow her to greet voters, and allow the press to be right there in the parade with her as opposed to preset locations. And that’s what we did.”