CNN: McCain ‘Off the GOP Path’ For Going to Selma, Alabama

NewsBusters.org | screenshot from CNN feat. Dana BashDuring a report by CNN correspondent Dana Bash on Monday’s "The Situation Room," an on-screen chyron or graphic described John McCain’s campaign stop in Selma, Alabama in the following terms: "McCain: Off the GOP Path -- Courts Blacks, Moderates in Ala." Bash herself described McCain’s campaign "really trying to... choreograph events all week long to create his own brand of Republicanism, show, like you said, in impoverished areas, in heavily black areas, that he's a different kind of Republican." Bash then described how "if you took one look at the kind of people who came out to hear John McCain today, it was very clear he has a huge hill to climb."

It’s odd for the CNN graphic to describe McCain as being "off the GOP path" by courting moderates, since the media itself has consistently emphasized the importance of moderate voters in elections, and how both parties have courted them.

McCain’s event in Selma took place in view of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where voting rights marchers were attacked by Alabama State Police in 1965. Bash described how the Republican candidate’s aides "chose the bridge backdrop to symbolize this Republican's intention to reach out to the black community." She then specified "the kind of people" she referred to earlier that showed up at the event, and how that varied from the local population, and a clip of her question to McCain was played, along with part of McCain’s answer.

BASH (voice-over): ...Seventy percent of Selma is black. But almost all the audience was white -- imagery telling a different story than scripted.

BASH (on-camera): You're here talking about civil rights, obviously, in a predominantly black town. But it's hard not to notice that many of the people here in the crowd are white. Is that an illustration of the challenge that you have?

MCCAIN: I am aware of the challenges, and I am aware of the -- of the fact that there will be many people who will not vote for me. But I am going to be the president of all the people, and I will work for all the people.

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterDuring the rest of her report, Bash described the tough economic situation in Selma, how McCain "said his conservative principles will help" the situation there, and how, despite the fact that most blacks vote for Democrats, he was received pretty warmly by the black community in Selma. A video clip showed an older black woman greeting McCain with a hug, and then sort of dancing with him as others sang gospel music.

Earlier in April, during an interview of McCain, Bash asked, "[I]n this time of uncertainty, when there are so many people hurting, are you concerned that there are voters out there who hear that who say, John McCain is heartless when it comes to this issue?"

The full transcript of Dana Bash’s report from Monday’s "The Situation Room," which began 37 minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour of the program:

WOLF BLITZER: John McCain is in Alabama today, taking his campaign to places Republicans have often ignored. He's -- also has stops this week in Ohio, Kentucky and Arkansas. McCain looking to win over moderate voters, while the Democrats continue their nasty primary battle. Dana Bash is in Selma, Alabama, right now. Dana, McCain's message, specifically to African-American voters in Alabama and elsewhere, what is it?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what he's trying to do -- and his campaign is really trying to do, Wolf -- is choreograph events all week long to create his own brand of Republicanism, show, like you said, in impoverished areas, in heavily black areas, that he's a different kind of Republican. But if you took one look at the kind of people who came out to hear John McCain today, it was very clear he has a huge hill to climb.

BASH (voice-over): Standing in front of Selma, Alabama's famous bridge, a tribute to civil rights leaders beaten for marching on it four decades ago.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... that the people who tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge weren't a mob. They weren't a threat. They were patriots.

BASH: This was the first visit in memory from a Republican presidential candidate -- John McCain's whole point in coming.

MCCAIN: There must be no forgotten places in America, where they have been ignored for long years by the sins of indifference and injustice.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BASH: McCain aides chose the bridge backdrop to symbolize this Republican's intention to reach out to the black community. Seventy percent of Selma is black. But almost all the audience was white -- imagery telling a different story than scripted.

(on-camera): You're here talking about civil rights, obviously, in a predominantly black town. But it's hard not to notice that many of the people here in the crowd are white. Is that an illustration of the challenge that you have?

MCCAIN: I am aware of the challenges, and I am aware of the -- of the fact that there will be many people who will not vote for me. But I am going to be the president of all the people, and I will work for all the people.

BASH (voice-over): Empty Selma storefronts illustrate economic hardship and high unemployment. McCain said his conservative principles will help.

MCCAIN: It's time for change, the right kind of change, change that trusts in the strength of free people and free markets.

BASH: One of the few black voters who came to see McCain said she wasn't swayed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's -- I'm just -- he's a Republican. I'm a Democrat. That's just like water and oil. It just doesn't mix.

BASH: They may not like McCain's gospel much here, but he got a taste of theirs.

(MUSIC)

MCCAIN: And McCain spoke vividly about the bloody beating of John Lewis, who marched on the bridge behind me about four decades ago. He was a civil rights leader then. Now, he's a Democratic congressman who supports Barack Obama. And, Wolf, Lewis released a statement saying he has no advance knowledge of McCain's remarks, but said that he is gratified that he decided to speak about the struggle for voting rights. He also made sure to say that it's more profound than partisan politics -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Dana.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center