With Tuesday’s Alabama special GOP primary only days away, Luther Strange’s campaign for a full term in the U.S. Senate is giving the media, especially conservative-leaning media, an increasingly cold shoulder and keeping their man under wraps.
Strange’s newfound standoffishness with the press began to emerge Thursday after his “Lincoln-Douglas-style” debate with opponent Roy Moore in Montgomery, Alabama. After a composed and well-prepared debate performance, Strange engaged with a post-debate press gaggle. At first cordial, Strange’s interaction with the reporters present turned ugly when he was asked about his appointment to the U.S. Senate by former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who resigned under a cloud of campaign finance suspicions earlier this year. Strange, as Alabama Attorney General, was responsible for investigating the allegations against Bentley at the time he was appointed.
Strange immediately turned apprehensive, saying, “You know, I’ve already been asked that question a billion times.”
“Answer it Luther!” Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who was in attendance behind the reporters, then shouted in response.
The exchange prompted Strange’s handlers to call an end to his press availability. The candidate swiftly departed from the debate venue.
The pattern continued the next night in the leadup to Friday’s Huntsville rally with President Donald Trump. Former Deputy Assistant to the President and one-time Breitbart News national security editor Dr. Sebastian Gorka, fresh off an enthusiastic endorsement of Roy Moore at the former Alabama Chief Justice’s Thursday Rally in Montgomery, appeared on Fox New’s Special Report with Brett Baier to further make his case for Moore. Strange and his surrogates refused to appear with Gorka and make a counterargument.
“We invited the Strange Campaign to participate in this segment, they did not accept that offer,” Baier told viewers.
When Baier asked Gorka how he squared being a Trump supporter with his endorsement of the opposite candidate in the Alabama U.S. Senate race, Gorka answered, “I’m supporting [Trump’s] agenda. This isn’t about who the president has endorsed with great pressure from Mitch McConnell.”
Gorka then expounded on his understanding of why the Strange campaign and Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund, which has put millions of dollars behind Strange, refused to appear on Fox, saying:
[L]et’s be accurate about what happened tonight – I was told Steve Law, who runs Mitch McConnell’s PAC for this race, actually accepted [an invitation] to come on this show, and when he heard I was coming on, he got a yellow belly and just ran. So, that tells you the establishment is afraid of the president’s agenda winning in Alabama on Tuesday.
The president has gone with the forces of the establishment on this one candidate. But guess what happens – when Judge Moore wins on Tuesday, it will strengthen the president, because now he’ll be able to go to the establishment GOP – to the swamp dwellers and say, ‘Hey guys, we are back on my agenda. This wasn’t worth it.’ So, the president is going to stay – he’s going to return to the Make America Great Again agenda. We just have to help him, and we’re going to do it from the outside by endorsing people like Judge Moore.
The Trump-Stange rally itself showed no turning from this strategy of non-engagement. A “low-level staffer” with the Strange campaign denied entry to Breitbart News TV editor Jeff Poor, who was credentialed and on scene to cover the event. Breitbart News had already secured assurances of admission from the Strange campaign.
— Jeff Poor (@jeff_poor) September 22, 2017
— Jeff Poor (@jeff_poor) September 23, 2017