Go read the letter that the McCain campaign has fired off to NBC News. The whole thing is below the jump. They are outraged - outraged - that Andrea Mitchell said the following on air:
"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."
After hyper-ventilating about this for several paragraphs, Rick Davis then concedes that Mitchell was reporting something that would have been news to most viewers, who were told that McCain was "safely" in a "cone of silence" from which one could possibly hear through the wall (as McCain joked). In fact, for a large part of Obama's interview, McCain was en route in a limo, and not, so far as one can tell, under Warren's peeps' "safe" custody. Now this does not mean, of course, that he was listening to the debate or cheating. I assume he wasn't, or he was an awfully good actor as he groped toward his answers at the beginning. But it's a perfectly legitimate piece of reporting, framed so that the source of the charge is clear, and with the bonus implication from Mitchell that McCain won the "debate."
So why the outrage? Is this a calculated attempt to make media bias an issue for the Obama campaign alone, while it is a matter of record that very very few politicians have cultivated the press as assiduously as McCain? Or is it just the senator blowing a fuse because someone accused him of cheating when he didn't (but could have)? Either way, it's awfully defensive and prickly.
Here's the letter:
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.
John McCain 2008