What It's Like to Cover Jon Ossoff's 'Accessible' Campaign

Feature: What I saw in Georgia Six

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June 16, 2017

Jon Ossoff's campaign is an impressive one. The offices are filled with young excited volunteers and staffers, chatting in rooms covered with bright posters that make you feel like you are at a summer camp arts and crafts center. Personnel are well trained to hide Ossoff's vulnerabilities—one volunteer, introducing himself to a staffer, said "I'm from California—I know, shh," putting a finger to his lips. Another bragged about how he taught his little brother, who didn't appear to be more than 14 years old, not to talk to reporters—"What is press?" the younger brother was trained to say.

On June 12 I went to my first Ossoff event at his Marietta field office. I introduced myself to his communications director, who kindly forwarded me an email the campaign had sent to its press list that cataloging his planned events for the day, which included two that, unlike the Marietta event, weren't announced publicly. She told me she would add me to list, and made a note of that plan on her phone.

Ossoff soon arrived with Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat in town for the event. Kildee didn't say much—he praised Ossoff's values, said that he is willing to work with anyone, "left, right, or center," and briefly mentioned Ossoff's focus on government waste and tech jobs. Ossoff said less—he said the campaign would come down to the wire, said the race wasn't about "political party," and urged his canvassers to "stay kind" and "stay humble."

Ossoff worked the room. I shook his hand and introduced myself, but he quickly directed me to one of his communications staffers. "This gentleman is from the Free Beacon," Ossoff said as he walked away. "Do you have time to talk later?" I asked. "We'll see," he said. I asked his communications director whether Ossoff would have time for that interview. She suggested I email her questions.

I then approached Kildee, who was eager to talk. As we began our discussion, Ossoff's communication director interrupted. "Hey, what's the next thing we got?" she asked Kildee, who said he needed a picture with Ossoff. "Let's get you over there," she said as she pulled him away.

As I turned my attention back towards Ossoff's discussions with volunteers, I noticed that a young man, shorter than I, was boxing me out. I attempted to go around his left, but he exhibited strong fundamentals, shifting in my direction while using his elbow to gain leverage. I went right. But he persisted.

"Excuse me," I said as I politely tapped on his shoulder, attempting to avoid a body slam. "Can I get by you?"

He said nothing.

"I can't get by you?" I repeated, laughing at the absurdity of the situation. "I think I'm allowed to get by you," I told him.

"So, which group are you with?" he finally said.

"I'm a reporter with the Free Beacon," I said.

"Ooooh, ok, sorry," he said, stepping aside. "I thought you were a tracker."

"Don't worry, buddy," I said.

"Of course, all the access you need," he said as other staffers looked on, laughing sheepishly.

There wasn't much access to be had, and I'm not sure it would have given me much insight. All I wanted to ask Ossoff was why he hasn't thought about whether he would support Nancy Pelosi if he were elected. In the past two months, he has given four different publications an identical non-answer when asked about Pelosi.

I snapped a few pictures around the office, including one of the call-script his volunteer army uses to contact voters. Then I went to Chick-Fil-A, a much more enjoyable experience.

While I was sitting there, I got an email from the Ossoff campaign that I figured contained information about a later event. I was wrong.

"We've had countless reporters here over the last few months, we're proud to be an accessible campaign, but we've never had people take pictures of campaign documents before," the campaign's communications director wrote. "Please refrain from doing so in the future."

I was unaware that I had sinned by reporting on a campaign document.

A likely explanation for why the campaign was unfamiliar with this advanced reporting technique is because other reporters have been too distracted by Ossoff's "Kennedy-ish features" and "Obama-like manner of speaking" to bother with focusing on the vacuous message his campaign is delivering to voters. They have managed to miss issues such as how he fabricated his national security credentials, made up a bogus plan to cut government waste, flip-flopped on Israel, and received nearly 97 percent of contributions from donors outside of the state.

Alas, I was never added to that press list.

I am headed back to Georgia for the election. Can't wait for the access.

Published under: Feature , Jon Ossoff