New Hampshire

‘You Weren’t Supposed to Come:’ What It’s Like Trying to Cover Maggie Hassan

How hard is it for a centre-right news outlet like the New Hampshire Journal to cover one of the hottest US Senate races in the country?

This audio gives you a glimpse:

In the audio, you can hear me approaching a press conference given by Sen. Maggie Hassan in a Concord church hall. An employee is trying to prevent me from entering the building. I move further into the room and join other members of the press.

A second employee comes up to me and tells me to leave. I refuse. “I’m a reporter doing my job.”

The employee replies, “Well, you shouldn’t come.”

“Shouldn’t come” is an interesting take on a reporter attending a press conference.

But he was serious.

Despite more than 100 requests, Hassan’s official Senate office — which works for taxpayers — refuses to send NHJournal its “public” press releases; and her Senate campaign – which works directly for Hassan – also refuses.

Yes, NHJournal is indeed a centre-right media outlet, just like NHPR – which also attended Wednesday’s press conference – is centre-left.

It’s also true that NHJournal is a member of the New Hampshire Press Association (NHPA), its content has appeared in newspapers across the country, and was awarded “Best Political Reporting” by the NHPA in 2021 (Shout out to Reporter Damien Fisher !)

We also won an award for our coverage of trying to stop legal protests near Gov. Chris Sununu’s home, a story that didn’t make Republicans happy.

Reps. Connie Lane (D-Concord) and Paul Bergeron (D-Nashua) join Sen. Maggie Hassan at a news conference in which they attack Republican Don Bolduc as an “election denier.”

When the Hassan campaign sent out a press release, “Senator Hassan will hold a press conference on Don Bolduc’s extreme record of election denial.” NHJournal did not receive it. When we received a copy and agreed, as usual, the Hassan campaign didn’t respond. Fortunately, other New Hampshire media outlets shared the location of the press conference.

And what happened? After Team Hassan gave up trying to kick me out, the campaign held their press conference, the senator answered about a half-dozen questions—three from me, really—and everyone got back to work.

In other words: “politics”. In other federal states and with other candidates, this happens every day.

Sununu accepts questions from all comers. His Democratic opponent, Senator Tom Sherman, participates in several debates and appears on local radio talk shows such as Drew Cline’s WFEA program. So does the Democratic US Congressman Chris Pappas. Cline is president of the free-market Josiah Bartlett Center and hardly a friend of the left. But the interviews are informative and nobody gets hurt.

According to Cline, Hassan has turned down multiple invitations to appear on the show during this campaign season.

Is it partisan bias? Is Hassan’s position that she will only speak to the ‘friendly’ press? Is it arrogance? Does she think reporters – and especially her readers or listeners – will be lucky that she speaks to them at all?

Or is it fear? Hassan’s poll numbers have never been great. And despite facing one of the weakest GOP nominees for the US Senate in the country — and massively outperforming him — she managed to turn what should have been a safe seat into a throw.

Let’s be clear: if Maggie Hassan loses to Don Bolduc, she will be New Hampshire’s Hillary Clinton. Or worse, the Martha Cookley. The only question she’ll ever get is, ‘How did you lose? the Guy?”

And one answer will be that she played defense. For example, Hassan has refused to participate in debates hosted by AARP, WGIR Radio, union leader and radio host Jack Heath. But she called for a debate in which Bolduc would have to face a reporter from the liberal NHPR and a journalist who was until recently a “Writing Fellow in Global Feminism” at Bitch Media.

But Hassan is hiding from NHJournal?

Here’s free and unsolicited advice to Hassan and the people who tried to kick me out of a press conference: Whatever you do, it doesn’t work. Dodging debates, refusing to hold town halls, hiding from the press and, most importantly, not speaking to voters – all this has put you in a statistical connection with Don Bolduc.

Maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy before New Hampshire decides it’s time to fire its senator.

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