CNN’s Campbell Brown, participating in a panel discussion on CNN’s special coverage of the West Virginia primary on Tuesday evening, agreed with the liberal members of the panel and rejected a Republican strategist’s opposition to the idea that John McCain has been receiving a "free ride" over the past weeks. "We can argue he’s [McCain] also not getting a lot of attention right now."
Brown must have forgotten that her own network hasn't exactly given a "free ride" to McCain in the recent past. Earlier in the week, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, speaking of McCain's environmental record, stated that "he's not as far as to the right as Bush is, but he's pretty close." On April 2, CNN correspondent Dana Bash interviewed McCain and asked if he was "heartless" on the issue of the economy.
Hilary Rosen, a member of the panel and a Hillary Clinton supporter (oddly enough), proposed the concept of McCain receiving the "free ride" and that this was "unacceptable." Alex Castellanos, the Republican strategist, countered this by stating that apparently "the only negative ads run against a presidential candidate have been run by the Democrats against John McCain so far" and in his opinion, "McCain having a free ride, I haven’t exactly seen a lot of that." Rosen and CNN contributor Roland Martin reacted with the same words: "Come on Alex!" At the same time, Brown voiced her general agreement with Rosen and Martin’s reaction.
Castellanos then quipped in response, "So the negative ads the Democrats are running against McCain don’t count. All right, I’m glad you all agree on that.... I’ll remember that in the fall."
The transcript of the relevant portion from the discussion, which began about 50 minutes into 8 pm Eastern hour of CNN’s primary coverage on Tuesday evening:
HILARY ROSEN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: The good news about what Barack Obama’s doing this week is that John McCain [has] had a free ride for the last couple of weeks, and that fact that Obama is out there now hammering back is good, and all Democrats appreciate that. And I think in some respects for Clinton supporters, we want to see how he does up against McCain. We want to see him taking on McCain because this free ride that McCain is getting is just unacceptable. And what he needs to do to be more successful, I think, is make sure that those lower middle class working voters, who have historically been Clinton supporters, you know, go along for the ride, because I don’t think John McCain can get them. Barack Obama has to be speaking to them too.
JAMAL SIMMONS, OBAMA SUPPORTER: And I think we saw some of that tonight in the speech that he [Obama] gave in Missouri.
CAMPBELL BROWN: Okay, Alex? Sorry.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, I think it’s a very different election. First of all, the only negative ads run against a presidential candidate have been run by the Democrats against John McCain so far. So, the negative campaign -- I’d say McCain having a free ride, I haven’t exactly seen a lot of that.
ROSEN: Oh, come on Alex!
BROWN: But generally, the media coverage has been intensely on the Democratic race.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It’s not free, but he’s paying a reduced fare. (LAUGHTER) Come on, come on Alex!
BROWN: We can argue he’s also not getting a lot of attention right now.
CASTELLANOS: So the negative ads the Democrats are running against McCain don’t count. All right, I’m glad you all agree on that.
CASTELLANOS: I’ll remember that in the fall.