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The interview with Herman Cain that wasn't makes headlines

Senior Political Reporter

November 17. 2011 8:54PM
Herman Cain answers questions about the campaign ahead at the New Hampshire Union Leader in this March, 2011 file photo. (TOM ROY)

MANCHESTER - Candidate Herman Cain's decision to skip a scheduled interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader became the buzz of state and national presidential politics Thursday.

After Cain bypassed a scheduled 10 a.m. stop at the Manchester office of the newspaper, reports of the canceled interview went viral on the Internet and Twitter.

The interview was initially scheduled last week in advance of Cain's first visit to the leadoff primary state since the summer. It was scheduled to last between an hour and about 75 minutes.

Initially, the Cain campaign agreed to the full hour or more, but then told the newspaper it did not want C-SPAN to tape the interview.

The news network had videotaped for broadcast and its website the newspaper's recent interviews with three other major presidential candidates.

After confusion arose over whether the entire interview, or just the taping, had been canceled, Cain's campaign apparently scheduled another event at roughly the same time and said Cain could appear at the newspaper for only 20 minutes.

Union Leader Publisher Joseph McQuaid rejected the suggestion, telling the campaign that if Cain could not appear for the full 60 minutes, then there would be no interview.

McQuaid said Thursday that 20 minutes was not enough time for a 'formal, sit-down interview' during which he and other newspaper staff 'size up' the candidates.

The Union Leader has not yet editorially endorsed a candidate in the campaign leading up to the Jan. 10 primary.

About 45 minutes after Cain's 10 a.m. appointment, a Union Leader reporter received a brief telephone message from the Cain campaign.

'I hope we can connect in the future,' local campaign spokesman Charlie Spano said.

Cain, personally and through his staff, later contended that the newspaper, not they, canceled the interview.

McQuaid responded, 'We had an hour-long interview scheduled. They, in effect, canceled that, saying it could only be 20.

'It's kind of funny, I think, that with candidates complaining that the media doesn't give them enough time for depth, that Cain's camp blows off an in-depth interview,' he said.

Also, Cain spokesman J.D. Gordon told the national website Politico that the campaign will not allow any future newspaper editorial board meetings to be videotaped.

'Videos are typically used for television, and it's a newspaper. We decided we didn't want to do the video,' Gordon said.

Union Leader Correspondent Nancy Bean Foster reported from Nashua that Cain spokesman Gordon said he had been in contact with McQuaid and the two had been negotiating the details of the interview. McQuaid, Gordon said, had asked for either 45 minutes or an hour, but Gordon said he told McQuaid that '20 minutes was enough to address the issues.

'We only give other newspapers 10 minutes,' said Gordon.

Gordon told Foster that he and McQuaid had agreed to discuss the issue again on Wednesday, but never had another opportunity to speak. On Thursday morning, Gordon said, a Cain campaign staffer was at the Union Leader around 9 a.m. and was told that the interview had been canceled.

Gordon said he then read on Twitter about Cain not showing up for the Union Leader interview.

'(Union Leader editorial page director) Drew (Cline) Twittered that we were a no show, but that's not accurate,' Gordon said. 'I think there was some miscommunication.'

Gordon said the campaign would like to reschedule the interview and 'make it right.

'The Union Leader is important to us,' said Gordon. 'We hope we'll have an opportunity to reschedule when we return to New Hampshire.'

Meanwhile, McQuaid said he was not concerned about Cain not showing up.

'It's politics and campaigns. I don't think he's going anywhere from here at this point, anyway,' he said.

The situation arose after a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel video of Cain struggling to answer a question about Obama's and his own policies on Libya went viral early Tuesday.

A few hours later, Cain's campaign told the Union Leader it wanted no videotaping of his interview.

> Poll: Romney, Gingrich in statistical dead heat in N.H.

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