Camp Obama Silencing The Desenters

Camp Obama has thrown the Wasthington Times, NYPost and Dallas Morning News off of the campaign plane citing no more room. The Times has been on since the beginning of the campaign so what gives… The fact that all three papers endorsed McCain is what gives. Now what is interesting is Burton claims that the focus is to shift to news agencies that will get swing voters… Ebony and Jet are considered part of the swing voter outreach… Is he saying the are not so sure of the “Black” vote that they need Ebony and Jet to help out or is it that they just want to silence the media that is not for them? Even the Chicago papers got better treatment, again Obama is afraid of loosing his own Chicago supporters?

The Desenters must be silenced.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton confirms Drudge’s report that two right-leaning papers, the Washington Times and the New York Post, have lost their seats on the Obama plane, along with the Dallas Morning News.

“We’re trying to reach as many swing voters that we can and unfortunately had to make some tough choices. but we are accommodating these folks in every way possible,” he said.

The Post and the Morning News are both read primarily in states that aren’t in play, but the Washington Times is read in Northern Virginia.

Burton said the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times had returned to the plane, and confirmed that Ebony and Jet magazines have seats on the plane. (The Tribune has had a reporter on the plane for most of the cycle, but recently added a photographer.)

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd said in an email that, contrary to Drudge’s suggestion, she won’t be on Obama’s plane.

“I’ll be at Saturday Night Live covering Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin and possibly the real John McCain,” she said.

Burton said the campaign was making space for the dropped outlets on the campaign bus where possible, and that they were encouraged to travel with Senator Joe Biden. He also noted that Fox News, whose schedule includes perhaps the most openly hostile programming to Obama, has a seat on the plane.

McCain barred Dowd and Time’s Joe Klein, two columnists seen as leaning toward Obama, from his campaign plane, and space has grown very tight on Obama’s in recent days. But Obama aides have also been heard to complain about the coverage from the New York Post and the Washington Times, if not as vociferously as they have about Fox News’s coverage.

The Times took an ideologically-charged shot at Obama in response to its barring, a reminder of the political undercurrent to the choice.

The Wasthington Times Statement:

The Washington Times, which has covered the Barack Obama campaign from the start, was kicked off the Democrat’s campaign plane for the final 72 hours of the race.

The Obama campaign informed the newspaper Thursday evening of its decision, which came two days after The Times editorial page endorsed Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama. The Times editorial page runs completely independent of the news department.

“This feels like the journalistic equivalent of redistributing the wealth, we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars covering Senator Obama’s campaign, traveling on his plane, and taking our turn in the reporter’s pool, only to have our seat given away to someone else in the last days of the campaign,” said Washington Times Executive Editor John Solomon.

“I hope the candidate that promises to unite America isn’t using a litmus test to determine who gets to cover his campaign.”

The Obama campaign confirmed two other newspapers, The Dallas Morning News, and The New York Post, whose editorial boards have endorsed John McCain, were also kicked off the campaign for the final stretch.

“The Times said it won’t be deterred by the Obama decision from continuing to cover the campaign fairly and fully for the final days. It’s reporters will fly commercial and drive to keep its coverage of Obama complete,” Mr. Solomon said.

Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglass told reporters on the plan Friday morning that adding a second plane to accommodate more traveling press would cause the campaign to lose one city per day due to logistical considerations.

She added that Michelle Obama is joining the plane, which will require more Secret Service agents to be on board as well.

These were “very hard decisions,” she said, and have “absolutely nothing” to do with the news organizations’ coverage of the race.

The Times formally protested the decision, noting that it has one of the top 20 largest newspaper Web sites in the country, distributes its print edition in the key battleground state of Virginia, and has had its stories repeatedly cited by Mr. Obama and other Democrats throughout the campaign.

“Sen. Obama himself demonstrated he appreciates the importance of The Washington Times and its news coverage. In June, he wrote a letter citing a Times’ investigative project that highlighted government mistreatment of our veterans. Sen. Obama requested an investigation by Congress and the administration, both of which confirmed the problems and led to corrective action at the VA. In his August acceptance speech, Sen. Obama also prominently mentioned our interview with Sen. Phil Gramm and the now infamous comments about a ‘mental recession’ and a ‘nation of whiners’,” wrote Mr. Solomon in an e-mail to Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.

Times reporter Christina Bellantoni, who has covered the Democratic campaign since 2007, is being asked to leave the campaign plane starting Sunday. In defending its decision, the Obama campaign said it respected Ms. Bellantoni’s reporting and simply ran out of seats on the campaign plane for the finale because of high demand. It also noted that the Obama campaign is allowing some news media critical of the Democrat to travel, including Fox News.

“Unfortunately, demand for seats on the plane during this final weekend has far exceeded supply, and because of logistical issues we made the decision not to add a second plane. This means we’ve had to make hard and unpleasant for all concerned decisions about limiting some news organizations and in some cases not being in a position to offer space to news organizations altogether,” wrote Obama campaign Senior Advisor and Chief Communications Officer Anita Dunn in an e-mail.

“There are simply no more seats on Senator Obama’s plane,” Ms. Dunn added.

“There are press seats available on Senator Biden’s plane for travel this final weekend and The Washington Times is encouraged to include our vice presidential nominee in your coverage plans for this final stretch,” she said.

Meanwhile, John McCain’s presidential campaign responded to the Times being kicked off the plane as “… not surprising.”

“The least transparent and the least vetted candidate in history is now the least accessible – not surprising,” said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

The Dallas Morning response:

By now you may have seen the Drudge Report item indicating that the DMN and two other papers who endorsed John McCain are being booted off the Obama campaign. Here’s the facts as we know them.

It’s true that our reporter, Todd J. Gillman, has been told that there’s no space for him after Saturday. Obama aides told the DMN told last Saturday that the paper would lose its seat on the plane on Wednesday. Within a few hours, that moved to Friday. And by midweek, traveling press secretary Jen Psaki had told us that Saturday night’s final flight would be the last leg available. We protested then and continue to do so now, arguing that a paper of the DMN’s size and stature should be on-board.

But we don’t have evidence that the newspaper’s endorsement of Sen. McCain had any bearing on the campaign’s decision to boot us from the plane. No one from the campaign every mentioned it to Todd. (And for the record, he as a reporter, and I as the editor in charge of political coverage, had absolutely no input or knowledge of the endorsement. That’s handled by a different department on a different floor. I didn’t even know about the editorial board’s choice until I read it in the paper a couple of Sundays ago.)

We think the Obama campaign’s decision is to some degree more a function of limited seats, and while we’re a large regional newspaper, we’re not national and we’re not in a swing state. We’ve been on the road with them at key moments, but we’ve not been along for the entire ride, like, say, The New York Times and The Associated Press.

For what it’s worth, we’ve had the same trouble with the McCain campaign. One of our reporters dropped off earlier this week when space became an issue, and we’re only getting back on with McCain tomorrow for the final weekend because they, unlike the Obama campaign, are adding a second plane.

That said, we’ve protested loudly and frequently with the Obama campaign. While we understand their decision, TDMN is one of the biggest papers in the South and Southwest, and over the years and in this campaign, we’ve demonstrated a strong commitment to campaign coverage. We believe very passionately in covering campaigns completely and aggressively, in being our readers’ eyes and ears on the scene as much as possible. We let the campaign know in early October that we wanted to travel along for the duration of the campaign. We still hope they change their minds.

Plus, we’re the only Southern or Southwestern paper that’s been on board constantly through October, and if we get booted, there won’t be any outside of New York, LA, Chicago, Washington and Boston.

The real problem is that the campaign does not want to add a second plane. Here’s how this works: The campaign makes travel arrangements and bills journalists for the costs. Your share of the cost is based on the total cost being divvyed up among the number of journalists traveling. So if there’s too many journalists for one plane but not quite enough for two, someone’s not going to make the cut.

And it does seem true that the campaign is allowing for more friendly media. But that should come as no surprise – Sen. Obama hasn’t done a press conference in more than a month, but he’s given “exclusive” interviews to Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow and Mario Lopez. (Don’t know this media titan? He’s the host of “Extra,” an entertainment news show, and a former star of “Saved By The Bell.”) This should tell you something – Sen. Obama is sitting on a lead and doesn’t want to risk aggressive questions by unbiased political reporters.

But for many readers, a lot of this is inside baseball. Here’s what you need to know – over the next five days, The Dallas Morning News will bring you complete coverage of the campaign. Todd is a dedicated guy who can function pretty well on little sleep and a whiz at travel arrangements, so he’ll hopscotch along behind the campaign if that’s what it takes. But no matter what, we’ll have robust news and analysis of the final stretch of this historic campaign.


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