Last week, we published emails in which Mike Allen, the chief White House correspondent of Politico, promised to provide completely positive coverage of Chelsea Clinton in exchange for a sit-down interview at a brunch hosted by the political news outlet. Allen initially claimed ignorance—“I don’t remember this e-mail”—but today, in his early-morning Playbook newsletter, he acknowledged he had sent it and regretted it:
MY BAD! You may have missed a Gawker post last week that rightly took me to task for something clumsy I wrote in an email to Philippe Reines in 2013, seeking an interview with Chelsea Clinton at a POLITICO brunch. In the email, I said I’d agree to the questions in advance. I have never done that, and would never do that. POLITICO has a policy against it, and it would make for a boring event. As you know from attending our events (or can tell by clicking on any of the videos on our website), they’re spontaneous, conversational and news-driven. Without stunts or grandstanding, we challenge guests to address newsworthy topics, and to be original, relevant and revelatory. A scripted back-and-forth would be a snore.
We didn’t do the interview with Chelsea Clinton, and would never clear our questions. But the email makes me cringe, because I should never have suggested we would. We retain full, unambiguous editorial control over our events and questioning. My bond with readers and newsmakers is built on knowing I don’t pull punches. So I wanted to share my take on this, and make sure our policy is clear.
Do any of the words above have even the slightest basis in reality? Did Allen really make a one-time mistake? Based on emails we hear are rattling around Capitol Hill—consisting of Allen’s softball interview pitches to various politicians and federal officials—we’re more than a little skeptical.
Maybe you can help us out. Have you ever received an email from Mike Allen pitching a sit-down interview with him at a Politico event? We’re very interested in what it says, so send it along to email@example.com. Anonymity guaranteed.