Mitchell: 'Scuttlebutt' Says McCain Sabotaged Obama Military Hospital Visit

Are reporters in the business of reporting fact or rumor?  Andrea Mitchell, for one, doesn't scruple to circulate "scuttlebutt" that if true would be deeply damaging to John McCain.  

Barack Obama's cancellation of plans to visit injured military members at bases in Germany has drawn considerable attention and criticism.  On today's Morning Joe, Mitchell passed along an Obama-campaign inspired rumor that McCain used his Pentagon connections to sabotage the Obama visit.

View video here.

ANDREA MITCHELL: The background on the military flap is that they [Obama campaign] had clearly planned a trip to Ramstein [AFB].  They were planning to visit the injured troops. And then the Pentagon explained that they couldn't go as part of a political trip.  The Obama campaign thought that they could go, leave the press corps on the tarmac, and then take off with military escort and make this one last visit.  As he did in Iraq, by the way.  He visited a casualty unit in the Green Zone, without photographers, as part of the congressional delegation. But the military said that the rules are that he could only go as part of a previously-arranged congressional delegation, to Ramstein.

Clearly, people in the campaign are really angry. They had wanted this to be the final stop on the trip here in Germany, and to do it without the press corps, just to do it on his own.  But the objections of the military are that he is now being staffed by campaign aides, not by his Senate staff, who are the people of course with him when he went with Hagel and Jack Reed in Iraq. So, you know, the anger here in the campaign is pretty intense at the Pentagon. They feel that the military are drawing some lines--they're not saying this publicly of course--but drawing lines that they might have drawn for other people.  He was planning to just go by himself, not with cameras, not with any entourage, as he had done in Walter Reed in the past in Washington, as he did in Iraq. Joe.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: It's curious, if that's the case, why the campaign didn't make that announcement yesterday, and allowed stories to go like this.  I'm sure there's going to be a lot of he said/she said in the days to come about this.

MITCHELL: But they thought that they couldn't win. Yeah. They thought that they were, you know, you know, no-win situation, that the Pentagon, perhaps the military with cooperation from some Republican operatives and, that's the sort of scuttlebutt, that there have been some foreign policy advisers of John McCain with connections in the Pentagon who had something to do with this. But that is, perhaps, just the normal political paranoia of the season.
Is this that journalistic standard of NBC/MSNBC? To propagate highly-inflammatory rumors, damaging to one candidate in a presidential race? Apparently so--at least when the target of the rumors is the Republican presidential candidate.

Oh, and according to Mitchell, the Obama campaign is "not saying this publicly." How much more public does it get than to say it, as the Obma campaign apparently did, to Andrea Mitchell, American TV's most prominent foreign affairs correspondent? And nice touch by Mitchell, after propagating the rumor, to say that, well, after all, it might just be political paranoia.  

ANDREA MITCHELL: The background on the military flap is that they [Obama campaign] had clearly planned a trip to Ramstein [AFB].  They were planning to visit the injured troops. And then the Pentagon explained that they couldn't go as part of a political trip.  The Obama campaign thought that they could go, leave the press corps on the tarmac, and then take off with military escort and make this one last visit.  As he did in Iraq, by the way.  He visited a casualty unit in the Green Zone, without photographers, as part of the congressional delegation. But the military said that the rules are that he could only go as part of a previously-arranged congressional delegation, to Ramstein.

Clearly, people in the campaign are really angry. They had wanted this to be the final stop on the trip here in Germany, and to do it without the press corps, just to do it on his own.  But the objections of the military are that he is now being staffed by campaign aides, not by his Senate staff, who are the people of course with him when he went with Hagel and Jack Reed in Iraq. So, you know, the anger here in the campaign is pretty intense at the Pentagon. They feel that the military are drawing some lines--they're not saying this publicly of course--but drawing lines that they might have drawn for other people.  He was planning to just go by himself, not with cameras, not with any entourage, as he had done in Walter Reed in the past in Washington, as he did in Iraq. Joe.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: It's curious, if that's the case, why the campaign didn't make that announcement yesterday, and allowed stories to go like this.  I'm sure there's going to be a lot of he said/she said in the days to come about this.

MITCHELL: But they thought that they couldn't win. Yeah. They thought that they were, you know, you know, no-win situation, that the Pentagon, perhaps the military with cooperation from some Republican operatives and, that's the sort of scuttlebutt, that there have been some foreign policy advisers of John McCain with connections in the Pentagon who had something to do with this. But that is, perhaps, just the normal political paranoia of the season.

Is this that journalistic standard of NBC/MSNBC? To propagate highly-inflammatory rumors, damaging to one candidate in a presidential race? Apparently so--at least when the target of the rumors is the Republican presidential candidate.

Note Mitchell's claim that the Obama campaign isn't making its allegations "publicly."  Of course not: just to American TV's most prominent foreign affairs correspondent.  And nice of Andrea to suggest this might just be political paranoia . . . after she's let the scuttlebutt out of the barn.

On the other hand . . . could this be a defense of Andrea: she wasn't circulating a totally unsourced rumor.  She did let it be known that it was coming from the Obama campaign. And so that is a "fact" in its own way, and one that could come back to bite Obama if the allegation is debunked.  Then again, how does McCain prove a negative?

H/t Jamesin619

BONUS COVERAGE: Berlin Speech Like Live-Aid

Joe Scarborough got off a good line, commenting on Barack's big day in Berlin.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:  I was very inspired by it; I think it was very good for America.  But at the same time I feel the way I felt the day after Live-Aid, instead of the way I felt the after, say, Ronald Reagan's speech on the 40th anniversary of Normandy.

Note: Scarborough's comment actually came before Mitchel's rumor-mongering, but I've placed it after the Mitchell segment in the video clip given the significance of what Mitchell did.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.