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Long a stop for Republicans, MTV saw little of Mitt Romney

November 05, 2012|By Steven Zeitchik
  • Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney (Charles Dhaparak )

John McCain brought his “Straight-Talk Express” to MTV during the 2008 campaign. Bob Dole chatted with Tabitha Soren at the Dartmouth fraternity that inspired “Animal House.” Even George W. Bush fielded questions from Gideon Yago.

 But anyone who waited for this year’s Republican presidential candidate on the network of “The Real World” and “Jersey Shore” waited a long time.

Despite making a number of cable TV appearances — the latest will come on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” with Barack Obama on Election Eve — Mitt Romney passed on several opportunities to sit down with MTV, executives said.

“We’ve asked all year long. We’ve even had a couple of meetings with his people, hopeful that it would happen,” Dave Sirulnick, MTV’s executive vice president of news and production, told Show Tracker. “It would have been a great opportunity,” he added, a bit rueful.

Aside from a few questions tossed at him by an MTV News reporter once on the trail, Romney has been absent from the youth network. There was no parlor-room sit-down; no walk-and-talk at a campaign stop.

Obama of course polls much more strongly with MTV’s youth demographic, as do many Democrats. But MTV is, nonetheless, often a favored stop by Republican candidates, many of whom hope to make inroads in the youth vote. Romney primary opponent Ron Paul figured out the MTV gig a while ago, appearing at a poetry slam on the network as far back as 2008.

“Covering Republicans is as much a part of covering the election as Democrats," Sirulnick said of the network's approach.

(MTV executives shouldn’t take it too personally: Romney didn’t appear on “The Daily Show” or other youth-TV staples either, though he's made some unintentional appearances on late night.)

As for how MTV treated Obama, particularly in its White House interview 10 days ago, Sirulnick stood by his approach. The interview saw MTV personality Sway mix more substantive questions about gay marriage with lightweight queries about pop music. That chat generated some media-world titters — on his CNN show, Anderson Cooper made a point of saying the news network was running limited clips because the interview wasn’t very hard-hitting.

But Sirulnick, who more than 20 years ago inaugurated the “Choose or Lose” initiative that made the cable network a fixture in presidential campaigns, said the interview was designed for a particular purpose.

"We felt very good about the questions we asked; we we thought they were very reflective of what our audience wants to know," he said of the interview, which featured some questions sent in by viewers. "Other people do other kinds of interviews. Some take different tones. This is what has worked for us. What you saw is what we believed young people care about. ”


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