Memo to Gov. Nikki Haley: Reporters ask tough questions. It’s part of their job. Governors are elected to answer tough questions. It’s part of their job.
To refuse to answer those questions because of some personal animus or dislike, as you did Wednesday, is not only petty and childish, it displays a frightening disregard and dismissal of the role of an independent, free press in holding our leaders accountable and in distributing researched and balanced news (rather than sound bites) to the public.
On Wednesday, as Haley and Attorney General Alan Wilson toured the state to promote their new ethics reform package (more on their proposals on Friday’s editorial pages), Gina Smith of The State newspaper dared to ask a rather simple question: Is this package related at all to the similar ones being put forth by legislative leaders? Rather than answer the question (which deserves an answer), Haley told Smith, “Gina, I am not going to answer any of your questions.”
Why the snub? Smith had the audacious temerity to write news stories in the past that the governor didn’t like. Well, if we may be frank, boo hoo. It shouldn’t be a surprise to our public leaders, especially those in the highest offices, that in being elected their lives and their jobs became public.
This isn’t the first time that Haley has clashed with reporters who have asked uncomfortable questions. Last year, she belittled a Post and Courier reporter as a “little girl” who dared to question her European expenses. In December she stared mutely at an elevator as cameras ran and a reporter asked about public documents that hadn’t been provided.
Criticism is a fact of life, particularly for those whom we ask to make some of our hardest decisions. We expect our governor to defend and back up her choices, explaining her actions to the constituents who put her in office. To baldly refuse to have that conversation and instead insult the person asking is not only immature but invites uncomfortable questions about why you refuse to answer. If you’d like to have only your side of an issue presented, hire a marketing director and buy an ad. If you want to see your thoughts presented in the news, you’ll have to talk to reporters.
It’s one thing to talk around questions or avoid incriminating answers; most politicians have honed that skill. It’s another to demean and ignore the hard-working journalists attempting to get your message out to the world and then hold personal grudges when they don’t write what you’d like. We like our leaders to be a little more adult than that, please.