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The buzz in the 'spin room'

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The last presidential debate took place Wednesday. Afterward, live media coverage turned to the “spin room.” There’s a reason they call it the “spin room”: After the debate, there is total spin in that room. A former colleague of mine used to say that you could put a microphone up to someone in the spin room, say anything to them and they would just continue with their pre-rehearsed speech. Each person who represents a candidate says their candidate won. It matters little if the candidate (in this case, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump) actually won the debate, the people spinning it for the press will say their person won.


It is also interesting who each campaign used in the spin room. Jennifer Palmieri, who has served at the Clinton White House and the Obama White House, along with Acting DNC Chair Donna Brazile, were active in the spin room after the debate. Sen. Jeff Sessions was also in the spin room, and it was not his first foray there for Donald Trump.


Sessions said: “But he was really good tonight. And he won this debate on the substantive issues that the people care about, such as immigration. There’s no doubt he was clear and firm and has a policy that the American people have been asking for, for 30 years.”


Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn defended Donald Trump, saying he is what the country needs. Flynn was supporting him all the way, and he did not change his defense of Donald Trump, no matter what reporters asked of him.


Defending Hillary Clinton, Brazile said, “I believe that they should take those doctored files with a grain of salt … because of the way in which they were stolen and the way they were put on the Internet.” Palmieri, outlined what Secretary Clinton brought up on the steel used to create the Trump hotel in Las Vegas, but she said Hillary Clinton “went high when he (Trump) goes low,” borrowing the expression Michele Obama used during her speech at the Democratic Party convention.


Rep. Judy Chu said, “And today I think the most stunning statement that was made is that Donald Trump wouldn’t abide by the results of the election.” Asked about the same statement, the Republican National Committee’s Sean Spicer said it would not be an issue since Donald Trump is going to win the election. Pressed about it by another journalist, Spicer kept to the script and again said, “Donald Trump is going to win the election.”


“Unlike Hillary Clinton, who’s gotten very rich being a politician, peddling American influence, he hasn’t – this is only a step down,” Trump Jr. told Fox News Channel’s Bill Hemmer.


Although the television networks have to pay a considerable amount for make-up trailers and lines for broadcasting from the debate, the Las Vegas spin room had the Trump campaign taking a corner space to do its own broadcasting in what some have said is a precursor to “Trump TV.” They were well set up and, unlike the television networks, they were elevated so all the other journalists could see them. Hillary Clinton’s campaign did not have any visible television-type operation in the “spin room.” There have been a ton of stories and guesses about what Trump TV might look like, but stories about what the Trump people were recording in the spin room after the Las Vegas debate are virtually non-existent.


Although the Trump campaign used some younger and new spokespersons such as Gov. Huckabee’s daughter, Gina Loudon and Scottie Nell Hughes, the Clinton camp stuck with its more traditional spokespersons. It certainly did not go out on any limbs in the spin room.


Most interesting, is that the spin room has few if any “legs,” as they say in the news business. Often what is said that night does not last very long. In fact, searching the Internet, there are few stories and little audio or video from the Las Vegas spin room.


The debate itself got a very large audience; 71.6 million people were reported to have watched it. The spin room, however, hardly makes a blip.


Reporters I know use the spin room as a way to make themselves seen and to interview people who may be part of a future presidential administration. Perhaps that access makes the spin room useful. Other than being an “in” for journalists and for filler for post-debate television shows, the spin room is pretty much useless. Perhaps it is time for the debate commission to find other ways of making campaign officials available to journalists both before and after the three scheduled presidential debates.


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