Dana Milbank, one of the media’s most infamously biased reporters, tells a tale:
Arlington, Va.: The Secret Service has now labeled the “kill him” report as unfounded. Why isn’t The Post giving this report as much coverage as the original false report received?
Glad you asked, because I saw this earlier. This is actually about the incident in Scranton, not the one in Clearwater, Fla, that I wrote about here.
I wasn’t at the Scranton event, but I have to say the Secret Service is in dangerous territory here. In cooperation with the Palin campaign, they’ve started preventing reporters from leaving the press section to interview people in the crowd. This is a serious violation of their duty — protecting the protectee — and gets into assisting with the political aspirations of the candidate. It also often makes it impossible for reporters to get into the crowd to question the people who say vulgar things. So they prevent reporters from getting near the people doing the shouting, then claim it’s unfounded because the reporters can’t get close enough to identify the person.
Notice what Milbank is claiming. He’s not just saying that the Secret Service is keeping the press from interviewing the crowd, he specifically accuses them of doing so in order to deny that the crowd is saying vulgar things. By implication, he is also saying their denial is a lie; why else would they need to conceal the truth? Furthermore, he is implicitly accusing them of dereliction of duty, since this sort of cover-up is probably incompatible with their duty to protect Obama.
The Secret Service says it’s not true:
But the Secret Service says Milbank has it wrong.
“It’s not a function of the Secret Service to prevent or limit reporters from interviewing the people at events,” said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan. “We’ve never been asked by any campaign to do that.”
Donovan said that at rallies for all the candidates, the Secret Service sometimes separates the press corps that is credentialed to cover the event—known as the pool—from the general public. That is for logistical and security reasons, he said.
“Being in a press pool gives them special access,” said Donovan. “But the other side is that they have to stay together. You keep national press away from the local press for the same reason.”
Any journalist can get around these restrictions simply by attending the rally as a member of the public rather than a part of the press pool, he said.
Of course, Milbank is saying that the Secret Service is lying about the Scranton incident (even though he admits he wasn’t there), so he’ll probably say they’re lying about this as well. My inclination is to believe the Secret Service.
AFTERTHOUGHT: Milbank’s accusation doesn’t even make sense. Even if we suppose that the Secret Service is trying to protect McCain’s candidacy, why would they go to such lengths just to conceal that some yahoo was yelling crazy stuff?
POSTSCRIPT: By the way, the Clearwater incident that Milbank alludes to is in a vitriolic column he wrote attacking Sarah Palin. In it, he reports (if we believe him) another “kill him!” incident, but in that one, by his own account, the imprecatory exclamation was directed at unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, not at Barack Obama. I suspect that this will become a point of some confusion.