Wisconsin Reporter good enough for Obama, but not for Mary Burke


WHO’S ON FIRST?: The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke says the White House was responsible for denying Wisconsin Reporter access to a Milwaukee rally on Tuesday with President Barack Obama. But a White House spokesperson says the Burke campaign was responsible for credentialing media for the event.

By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — Let’s get this straight.

Wisconsin Reporter, in the eyes of the White House, is good enough for President Obama, but it isn’t worthy to cover a rally in Milwaukee on Tuesday for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

Yep, makes total sense.

Again, Burke’s campaign blocked Wisconsin Reporter from covering a local event featuring the president or a member of his family, yet the White House gave us full access to attend the arrival and departure of Air Force One in Milwaukee.

As for the political fundraiser, the campaign told us it’s the White House’s call, which we found dubious. Burke’s communications office emailed Wisconsin Reporter on Saturday, saying all press inquiries must first go through the White House.

“All the details have been added to our list to send to the White House for approval,” says the unsigned email, sent one day after Wisconsin Reporter asked for press credentials. “We will let you know if the White House has approved your request.”

But Erin Mulhall, press lead at the White House, told us her office is only responsible for coordinating media coverage of Obama‘s arrival in Milwaukee, before he appears with Burke at North Division High School.

“The (Burke) campaign itself is handling all RSVPs and credentialing for the event, and then we handle Air Force One arrival and departure,” Mulhall said Tuesday morning.

After days of not hearing back from the Burke camp, Wisconsin Reporter stopped by her campaign headquarters about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, but to no avail.

All media representatives were unavailable, we were told. About an hour later, Burke’s communications office sent an email saying Wisconsin Reporter’s credentials were not approved because of a “longstanding policy of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.”

DENIED AGAIN: The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has once again barred Wisconsin Reporter from covering a political rally with a member of the Obama family.

Ah, there it is.

Burke’s staff did not reply to a followup email asking the campaign to expound on that “longstanding policy.”

Wisconsin Reporter was barred three weeks ago from covering a Burke rally in Madison with first lady Michelle Obama. The Burke campaign and state Democratic Party does not consider the online publication a legitimate news source — even though it is credentialed by the Wisconsin Capitol Correspondents Board to cover legislative sessions at the statehouse, and has been for years.

“Well, you’re not the press though, so, thanks,” Wisconsin Democratic Party spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said shortly after she denied Wisconsin Reporter access to the Michelle Obama event.

But apparently Wisconsin Reporter has received the president’s seal of approval.

Many freedom of the press advocates worry Burke’s handling of the media could spill over to the state Capitol if she defeats Republican Gov. Scott Walker in next week’s election. Some say it’s especially troubling because candidates are usually in the courting phase during the campaign season.

“What if she were to become governor?” WTMJ radio host John Mercure asked in a recent interview. “Could this expand?”

Carol O’Leary, president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association board of directors, is also troubled by certain media outlets being barred from political rallies, calling it an assault on free press.

“They are picking who they want to cover their stories … It’s not transparency,” O’Leary told Wisconsin Reporter earlier this month.