After our interview, I asked Wilson if he would help broker a rapprochement with his father. The next time we talked, he told me that his father was amenable to détente. I followed up by stopping by the congressman’s office and leaving him a handwritten note.

In February, I covered Clyburn when he spoke at Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Afterward, I asked if we could re-establish communications. “I don’t have a problem with that,” he said. “But I need to run it by Hope.”

Hope Derrick is Clyburn’s communications director. I was taken aback. “But you’re Hope’s boss,” I said. “You’re the congressman.”

I thought I saw a glimmer of regret pass through his eyes. “I don’t want to throw my staff under the bus,” he said. “You can understand that.”

Returning to our office, I described the encounter to my bureau chief, and asked if he would follow up with Derrick. He sent her an email relaying Clyburn’s willingness to hit reset. Her response arrived forthwith: “Nothing has changed, and we will not be providing direct access for Mr. Rosen,” she wrote.

As for Wilson, I’m still waiting for an answer to the note I left with his aides.


James Rosen is a congressional enterprise reporter for McClatchy Newspapers. He received the 2012 National Press Club Award for Regional Washington Reporting. A former Moscow correspondent, he is a 1986 graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.