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Hillary Clinton's April Interviews Offer Insight Into Media Strategy


Hillary Clinton and her campaign aides keep getting asked when she will hold a news conference. The most recent one happened last December. In their defense, the Clinton campaign points to how many interviews Clinton has given - they say more than 300 this year. NPR's David Folkenflik obtained a full database of all of Clinton's interviews since January 1, and he breaks down her strategy by looking at a single month.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: By April, Hillary Clinton had not yet sealed the deal among Democratic voters. Eight primaries took place that month. Clinton spoke to The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board for 50 minutes in advance of its endorsements. She said she was calling for criminal justice reform.


HILLARY CLINTON: Calling to end the era of mass incarceration. And, of course, I am calling for common sense gun safety measures to protect people.

FOLKENFLIK: Philadelphia, at the eastern edge of the state - a city where gun violence is a daily presence. On the western end, Clinton expressed more concern about the rights of gun owners.


JON DELANO: You've been passionate about the need for gun control.


DELANO: Is there a balance here?

FOLKENFLIK: This is John Delano of KDKA, CBS's Pittsburgh station.

DELANO: Do you want to infringe in any way on our right to have a gun, on our right to hunt?

CLINTON: Absolutely not. And I think that is propaganda from the gun lobby. There is absolutely no disconnect between common sense gun safety measures and protecting the Second Amendment rights of gun owners.

FOLKENFLIK: In Philly, Clinton sure didn't invoke the Second Amendment. The quick interview with Delano was more representative of how Clinton operated in April than the lengthy one with The Philadelphia Inquirer. In April, Clinton granted interviews to 33 local TV and radio stations, nine to national TV news outlets and exactly zero to reporters from big national newspapers. She did, however, give an hour-long interview to Glenn Thrush's podcast for Politico.


CLINTON: Once you get to a national press position like yours and the others that are traveling with me, you're really under, in my impression, a kind of pressure to produce a political story.

GLENN THRUSH: A headline.

CLINTON: That's your job - a headline, right? I totally get it.

FOLKENFLIK: In local news interviews, Clinton said, she picks up clues about voters' concerns.

CLINTON: What I get when I talk to the local press - and I've done countless local TV interviews...

THRUSH: Right.

CLINTON: ...Print interviews - is that they will actually say, well, you know, this is the problem that we're having. What do you think about it?

FOLKENFLIK: At this summer's Democratic Convention, KDKA's Jon Delano got a second crack at interviewing Clinton - about 8 and a half minutes. For that one in April, however, he received about three.

DELANO: Certainly in Secretary Clinton's case, you get a little tap on the shoulder from an aide that basically indicates that your time is up, which allows you to ask the last question.

FOLKENFLIK: Pennsylvania and New York had primaries in April. Hillary Clinton called into Ebro Darden's morning show on Hot 97 in New York City.


EBRO DARDEN: Listen up. We were having a debate here in the studio this morning. Before we get to the business - how do we refer to you? Mrs. Clinton - obviously, yes.


DARDEN: First Lady.

ROSENBERG: No, bit dated.

DARDEN: No. Secretary Clinton.

ROSENBERG: But I think Senator's strong.

FOLKENFLIK: Clinton gave particular attention to shows led by Latino and African-American hosts, like Darden.

CLINTON: I'll answer to any of those. You can throw in Hillary, too.

FOLKENFLIK: Clinton joined the show for a reason. Remarks she had made 20 minutes earlier had resurfaced to cause a great deal of controversy. In defending her husband's big crime bill, then-first-lady Hillary Clinton had referred to some young offenders as super-predators.


CLINTON: Not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called super-predators - no conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.

FOLKENFLIK: Such talk carries a racial charge for many African-Americans. Clinton needed then, as now, black votes. And Darden, an African-American host popular with black listeners, gave her a gentle way to address it.


DARDEN: You have apologized - right? - and said that - you know what? That comment then was not the right thing, and it - and here today - as we sit here today, we're going to do better. But I don't feel like that message is being heard because it gets brought up a lot. How does that make you feel?

FOLKENFLIK: So Hillary Clinton granted interviews throughout April. Many of them were controlled, limited by time or format. None of them got out of control - the great danger for a campaign of staging a press conference. David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.