NYT, Andrea Mitchell, Obama supporters/surrogates imply McCain “cheated” at Saddleback forum

Oh brother.  You knew as soon as McCain started answering questions so well at Saturday night’s faith forum at Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church that The Usual Suspects were going to cry “McCain knew the questions in advance!”    And less than 24 hours after the forum was over, they did just that.

What happened is that some of McCain’s staff confirmed with certain mediots that McCain was in his motorcade on the way to the event from the hotel right as the questioning of Obama started, and arrived about half an hour into the questioning, where he was placed in that “Cone of Silence” Warren assured everyone he was in at the beginning of the broadcast.   Yesterday on Meet the Press, Andrea Mitchell floated the Obama campaign’s complaint that McCain had essentially cheated.  It’s all over the leftosphere now that the reason their Golden Boy Obama didn’t do well is because he wasn’t given the questions in advance ‘like McCain was.’

The McCain campaign has written a letter to NBC protesting the accusation, and laying out in the letter a few facts that you won’t read much about in the MSM (emphasis added):

August 17, 2008
Mr. Steve Capus
President, NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112


We are extremely disappointed to see that the level of objectivity at NBC News has fallen so low that reporters are now giving voice to unsubstantiated, partisan claims in order to undercut John McCain.

Nowhere was this more evident than with NBC chief correspondent Andrea Mitchell’s comments on “Meet the Press” this morning. In analyzing last night’s presidential forum at Saddleback Church, Mitchell expressed the Obama campaign spin that John McCain could only have done so well last night because he “may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama.” Here are Andrea Mitchell’s comments in full:

Mitchell: “The Obama people must feel that he didn’t do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context, because what they are putting out privately is that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama. He seemed so well-prepared.” (NBC’s “Meet The Press,” 8/17/08)

Make no mistake: This is a serious charge. Andrea Mitchell is repeating, uncritically, a completely unsubstantiated Obama campaign claim that John McCain somehow cheated in last night’s forum at Saddleback Church. Instead of trying to substantiate this blatant falsehood in any way, Andrea Mitchell felt that she needed to repeat it on air to millions of “Meet the Press” viewers with no indication that 1.) There’s not one shred of evidence that it’s true; 2.) In his official correspondence to both campaigns, Pastor Rick Warren provided both candidates with information regarding the topic areas to be covered, which Barack Obama acknowledged during the forum when asked about Pastor Warren’s idea of an emergency plan for orphans and Obama said, “I cheated a little bit. I actually looked at this idea ahead of time, and I think it is a great idea;” 3.) John McCain actually requested that he and Barack Obama do the forum together on stage at the same time, making these kinds of after-the-fact complaints moot.

Indeed, instead of taking a critical journalistic approach to this spin, Andrea Mitchell did what has become a pattern for her of simply repeating Obama campaign talking points.

This is irresponsible journalism and sadly, indicative of the level of objectivity we have witnessed at NBC News this election cycle. Instead of examining the Obama campaign’s spin for truth before reporting it to more than 3 million NBC News viewers, Andrea Mitchell simply passed along Obama campaign conspiracy theories. The fact is that during Senator Obama’s segment at Saddleback last night, Senator McCain was in a motorcade to the event and then held in a green room with no broadcast feed. In the forum, John McCain clearly demonstrated to the American people that he is prepared to be our next President…..

We are concerned that your News Division is following MSNBC’s lead in abandoning non-partisan coverage of the Presidential race. We would like to request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss our deep concerns about the news standards and level of objectivity at NBC.


Rick Davis
Campaign Manager
John McCain 2008

CNN reports that the Obama campaign does not plan on pursuing the matter:

For their part, an Obama spokesperson told CNN’s Mike Roselli they are not pursuing whether McCain heard any of the other questions. They say they assuming McCain had the same information they did.

But that didn’t stop them from starting a whispering campaign about it over the weekend in order to get the  masses stirred up and to create the appearance of someone doing something wrong when in actuality nothing wrong happened.  Now we know the Obama campaign would never do something like that, would they? 

I find all this amusing, especially when you consider the complaints from Hillary Clinton during the primaries about how she was always asked questions first at the debates, implying that the reason that happened was because the moderators wanted help Obama who wasn’t as well-versed on the subject matter as she was.  Everybody laughed, but Politifact later pointed out that on the “first question of the debate” front, Hillary was right.  And now, the Obama campaign ‘privately’ expressed to a few reporters that they feel McCain was given advance notice of the questions, simply because he (Obama) did so badly on stage Saturday night whereas McCain kicked bootie (transcripts are here for anyone interested, and make sure to read Byron York’s take on the faith forum as well).   Well,  maybe if the Obama campaign would have taken the McCain campaign’s offer for both appear on stage at the same time, Obama would have been a little more ‘prepared’ – he could have just listened to McCain, and followed his lead.  Of course, when it came to repeating the POW stuff, Obama might have had a slight problem pulling it off.

Michael Goldfarb, who blogs for McCain, repeated an earlier challenge McCain has made to Obama on several occasions:

The facts are that Senator McCain was in a motorcade led by the United States Secret Service and held in a green room with no broadcast feed. If the Obama campaign really believes that Senator McCain had some unfair advantage, our offer of weekly town hall forums remains on the table–anyplace, anytime.

Here’s the translation, Obama campaign: Stop whining, and bring it.

Dan Riehl wonders (as does MM) about another implication in all this:

Flashback to the Presidential Debates 2004 via The Register: 

Was Bush packing Wi-Fi in TV debate?

Miraculous clarity arouses suspicion

It’s shameful and shamefully obvious what’s going on here, it actually somewhat began with Reagan. Call the Republican candidate dumb, or not sharp enough until it begins to sink in. Then, when they debunk that myth by besting the Democrat one on one – well, it had to have been cheating.

It’s a good thing Obama is intent on running such a noble campaign and not resorting to those nasty tricks we know only Republicans play.

Oh c’mon, Dan – we know that neither the Obama camapaign nor its surrogates would ever imply that McCain was too dumb/old to be president, right?

Releated: Via Ed Morrisssey: Team Obama acknowledges infanticide lie.

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