Meg Whitman Ducks Reporter's Questions, Has Time For Conservative Columnist

March 10, 2010 5:25 pm ET — Walid Zafar

California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, a national co-chair of John McCain's failed presidential campaign, held a press conference yesterday at the Port of Oakland.  At least that's what most of the press thought it was.  The San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci reports it like this:

Reporters from Bay Area media outlets -- TV, print and radio -- turned up for Whitman's advertised campaign stop in Oakland, where the former eBay CEO had announced a campaign stop and press event.

But once at the Union Pacific Railroad site, the assembled reporters were not allowed to view her tour -- and herded into a holding room instead.

Then came the news that Whitman also wouldn't take questions; reporters had been called in to "see" her make statements on "how she could be helpful as governor" on jobs and the economy, Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said.

Veteran reporters, who included KTVU's Randy Shandobil and KPIX's Hank Plante, were among the crowd that wasn't amused. Question: is Whitman a candidate for governor, or a museum piece to be "watched" by reporters?

Pompei said that Union Pacific had come out against reporters accompanying her on the tour of the facility, a claim the company disputes. A spokesman for Union Pacific told Marinucci, "we planned, actually, to have press talk with Meg on the tour....we understood there would be media availability and we wanted to work with that."  After talking to officials from the company, Whitman refused to answer questions from the reporters she had asked to come and cover her event.  The campaign claims there just wasn't enough time.  However, she did have time to meet with a conservative columnist.

But Whitman lingered for some time with railroad officials in the same room -- just feet away from the press, who refused to leave. Finally, they were herded out, at which point Whitman's campaign drew the blinds and put up a movie screen to block them from seeing the candidate.

Whitman did sit down to talk for 30 minutes with the Chronicle's Republican op-ed columnist, Debra J. Saunders -- but the rest were shut out.

The entire fiasco promoted Shandobil to ask Pompei, "Well, why were we invited?"  That's a good question.