THE PLANK JULY 8, 2008
Is the once famously reporter-friendly McCain campaign screening questions on its conference calls? The evidence seems to suggest so. Mother Jones's David Corn notes that the calls are handled differently from those conducted by the Clinton and Obama campaigns:
When a reporter calls in for a conference call, he or she is asked by
an operator to provide his or her name and media outlet. Then when it
comes time for questions, there is a long pause--long enough for
someone in the campaign to select whom should be called on....
During a July 1 McCain campaign call
featuring Senator Lindsey Graham and Orson Swindle (who was a Vietnam
POW with McCain), only two questions were taken--both from conservative
bloggers. The first came from Ed Morrissey, who asked Graham and
Swindle, "Can you explain the significance of John McCain's command
experience in the Navy...as well as whatever leadership he has shown in
the Senate....and can you address...that Barack Obama doesn't have any
executive experience at all?" The next query came from Matt Lewis.
Referencing retired General Wesley Clark's recent comment that McCain's
military service and POW experience did not qualify him to be
president, Lewis asked Graham and Swindle if Clark's remark was part of
"a concerted effort by the Obama campaign, or can liberals simply not
keep themselves from attacking the military?" Then the call was over....
And several weeks ago, during a conference call, an operator came on
the line and told me that I "was no longer needed" on the call. Though
I explained I was a journalist listening to the call, the operator said
he had been told to unplug me. I protested the decision, and he said he
would check and get right back. The operator never returned, and I
remained on the call. But during the question period, I was not called
In an email, I asked Jill Hazelbaker, McCain's communications director,
if the McCain campaign was screening reporters in an attempt to manage
the conference calls. She did not reply. I called the campaign's media
office and posed the same question. The woman who answered placed me on
hold. A few moments later, she told me that a press officer would soon
call with an answer. No one ever did.