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The Michigan Congressman who doesn’t return calls, or emails, or tweets

Tim Walberg
US House of Representative
Tim Walberg

Where is Tim Walberg? The Republican congressman from Michigan’s 7th district is in a fierce battle for reelection, raising millions of dollars,and pouring huge amounts of money into a slew of attack ads against his Democratic opponent. You would not think he’d be an especially hard guy to reach these days.

But as far as his campaign goes, Tim Walberg is an invisible secret mystery wrapped in an enigma, with strategists carefully guarding precious campaign secrets behind a wall of silence (like whether or not Walberg will be holding the typical election night event for supporters. It’s a mystery!)   

During this entire campaign, we never once got a response from Walberg’s campaign, despite multiple emails, a ridiculous amount of phone calls and voicemails, shyly polite requests from an intern regarding a candidate questionnaire (which contained vicious gotcha questions like “What books have you read recently?”) and tweets.

Even basic information, like “Would the congressman be available, at his convenience, to come on our daily news show, Stateside?” to “Hey FYI we are running a story about this race, haven’t heard anything from you guys yet, just checking in,” to the aforementioned “We’re covering the 7th district race on election night, are you guys having any kind of event?” We always got the same response: crickets.

Walberg has done a handful of interviews recently, like this one with the Detroit News, a sit-down with Detroit’s CBS affiliate, and this interview with a Detroit Free Pressbusiness columnist.

And his congressional staffer Alex Morris (who is not with the campaign) did allow us to walk briskly next to the congressman and ask him a few brief questions after a Hillsdale event (which you can hear in this piece.)

But in a race where Walberg and his opponent, Democrat state lawmaker Gretchen Driskell, are repeatedly calling each other liars in TV ads and the media, it’s fairly standard for candidates to try to reach voters directly and talk about the issues at greater length.

“This is pretty long standing,” says Zach Gorchow, editor at Gongwer News Service. “We’ve tried to interview him pretty much every election cycle for a story about the congressional race. Either we get no response at all, or we get, ‘We’ll see, we’ll see.’ We contacted them multiple times this year and never heard back. I can’t speak for other news organizations, but that’s been our experience here for years, even when he [Walberg] served in the [state] legislature.”

“Walberg seems to have decided that his best strategy is to ignore the mainstream media,” says Jack Lessenberry, a political analyst for Michigan Radio, as well as a newspaper columnist and faculty member at Wayne State University. “Nobody’s ducked the media so successfully as Walberg does.

“It’s a rare phenomenon,” Lessenberry says. “He just has a general distrust and contempt towards the media, and feels it can’t do him any good. His supporters listen to Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, and he sees the people who support him certainly don’t listen to NPR, so he feels it will do him no good whatsoever.”

We did, of course, call Walberg’s campaign for comment about this story.

So far, no response. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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