Maine 2nd District Congressman Bruce Poliquin told a private gathering that he avoids speaking to reporters because he’s afraid doing so could cost him at the ballot box.
In the secretly recorded audio recording obtained by the Maine People’s Alliance, Poliquin told backers of the Maine Heritage Policy Center he’s using this media strategy because his seat is one of two dozen swing seats in Congress.
“It would be stupid for me to engage the national media to give them, and everybody else, the ammunition they need and we would lose this seat, but I get it,” said Poliquin.
Poliquin has been hit with withering criticism for avoiding reporters on thorny issues, including whether he supports President Donald Trump. In the secretly recorded audio, Poliquin boasts that he was able to dodge questions about Trump while staying on message.
The Republican’s press strategy has led to some embarrassing moments, including one earlier this year when accidentally ducked into a women’s bathroom at the U.S. Capitol to avoid a question by a reporter from Slate.
His political opponents have attempted to exploit his unwillingness to engage with reporters, either while he’s serving Congress or during his 2016 reelection campaign. During his campaign launch on Thursday, Democratic challenger Jared Golden repeatedly accused Poliquin of avoiding the press and his constituents. Golden’s first political ad also featured video footage of Poliquin turning his back as a man attempted to ask him about his vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
In the recording leaked on Friday, Poliquin said he doesn’t just avoid the Maine press, but the national media, too.
“You think the press is bad in Maine? It’s unbelievable. And they are dying to get you on record to say whatever and that becomes the next, so…” Poliquin said.
He added, “As soon as you go down that path, you are in the swamp. You are exactly where they want you to be. Do not take the bait. I drove the press crazy for nine months because I stayed on message focusing on what I was going to do to help my state and my district and it worked.”
Poliquin’s political advisor is Brent Littlefield, who dismissed the audio on Twitter by saying the congressman makes regular visits throughout the 2nd District.
Poliquin faces reelection next year. Five Democratic challengers are vying for the chance to take him on.