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Chelsea Clinton's Hiring At NBC News Prompts Skeptical Reactions From Media

Chelsea Clinton

First Posted: 11/14/11 01:32 PM ET Updated: 11/14/11 01:55 PM ET

NEW YORK -- Chelsea Clinton may have officially joined the media on Monday, but several journalists who covered the 2008 election remain skeptical about the press-averse former First Daughter entering their ranks.

"The supreme irony of Chelsea Clinton becoming an NBC reporter: I'm pretty sure she's never granted an interview," tweeted The New York Times' Jodi Kantor.

The New York Times' Amy Chozick, who covered the 2008 election for the Wall Street Journal, responded that not only did Clinton refuse to give interviews, but "seemed to absolutely hate us on [Clinton's campaign] plane." In another tweet, Chozick wrote that Clinton "disdained reporters." (Chozick, reached by phone, declined to elaborate.)

Politico's Ken Vogel tweeted that Clinton gave reporters the "total cold shoulder" during the previous election cycle. And Glenn Thrush echoed his Politico colleague's experience on Twitter: "In '08, Chelsea Clinton (in NH) told me 'Sorry, I don't talk to the media.' I said, 'But you are all grown up now.' Now she IS the media."

At NBC News, Clinton won’t be covering the political horse race. She’ll primarily produce stories for “Rock Center with Brian Wiliams” and “NBC Nightly News” under the network’s “Making a Difference” banner. Those stories focus on “everyday people doing extraordinary things,” according to a Monday morning press release.

The New York Times was given a heads up about Clinton being hired as a special correspondent in anticipation of the press release, but Clinton declined to comment for the paper's article about her. The lack of an interview didn't go unnoticed. "Chelsea Clinton has loathed the news media for most of her life," tweeted the Times' Don Van Natta. "So it makes sense she has decided to join us and refuse to be interviewed."

There are plenty of questions the Times could've asked. Why leave the business world for journalism? How does it feel to join the media given her life spent dealing with prying reporters? Any reservations about joining NBC given the infamous 2008 comment, made by MSNBC's David Shuster, that she was "sort of being pimped out" by her mother's campaign?

In the absence of an interview, the Times had to rely on a "person close to" Clinton for insight. Ironically, the anonymous source suggested that the 31-year-old is now looking to raise her profile.

The anonymous source also pointed out to the Times that Clinton spoke at more than 400 town halls during Hillary Clinton's run for the presidency. But while voters may have gotten near Clinton, reporters didn't.

In April 2008, Politico's Amie Parnes described how longtime Hillary Clinton adviser Philippe Reines shielded Chelsea on the trail.

When sharp-elbowed television reporters manage to slip through the crowd and face Clinton, he reaches out his arm to shield the 28-year-old surrogate, points to the side of the room like a stone-faced traffic cop and tells the reporters, "I'll talk to you over there." Far from Chelsea.

Since Clinton doesn't speak to reporters, Reines is her voice. When inquiring minds approach Clinton to say hello, she has been known to say, "Have you met Philippe?"

"If I wasn't paid to talk to reporters, I wouldn't, either," said Reines, who has become the surrogate's surrogate in the face of growing criticism that the campaign is protecting her like a child. "Chelsea smartly knows that if she gives an inch of her privacy, she loses a foot."

Clinton isn't the first former First Daughter to join the NBC family. Jenna Bush Hager joined the "Today" show in 2009. In addition, Meghan McCain -- whose father twice ran for the White House -- signed on this month as an MSNBC contributor.

Such political hires inevitably raise questions of nepotism. NBC News president Steve Capus defended the hires as serious ones, telling the Times that Clinton "wants to be in the field for the shoot and in the edit room for the edit."

On Monday, as Clinton started work at NBC News, a network spokesperson said she isn't doing any interviews and wasn't available to comment for this article.

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