MSNBC's Robach, Witt aired McCain ad attacking "Woodstock Concert Museum" earmark, but didn't note his missed vote

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

On MSNBC Live, Amy Robach and Alex Witt separately aired a campaign ad from Republican presidential candidate John McCain attacking Sen. Hillary Clinton's support for a $1 million earmark for a museum at the site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival in New York. But Robach, Witt, NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell and Congressional Quarterly's Jonathan Allen all failed to note that McCain had skipped the vote on removing the earmark. Robach and Witt also falsely referred to the advertisement as "new."

During the January 16 edition of MSNBC Live, hosts Amy Robach and Alex Witt each separately aired a campaign advertisement from Republican presidential candidate John McCain in which McCain attacked Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) support for a $1 million earmark for a museum at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, located "at the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival" in New York. However, neither Robach nor Witt -- nor NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell and Congressional Quarterly reporter Jonathan Allen, who discussed the ad with Robach and Witt -- noted that McCain had skipped the vote on removing the earmark. Additionally, Robach and Witt falsely referred to the advertisement as "new."

As Media Matters for America previously noted, although McCain is listed as a co-sponsor of an amendment to remove the earmark, he was one of six senators to miss the vote to "table" -- or kill -- that amendment. The motion to table the amendment failed by a vote of 52-42, and the Senate subsequently passed the amendment by unanimous consent. The McCain campaign website notes that McCain had a town hall meeting scheduled in Greenville, South Carolina, at noon ET on October 18, the same day as the 3:37 p.m. ET motion to table.

During the 1 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live, Robach called the advertisement "a new television ad," but O'Donnell noted: "They actually dusted that one off. It had debuted earlier." Indeed, while the McCain campaign announced on January 16 that they "launched the television ad 'Tied Up' in South Carolina," it announced the advertisement's New Hampshire launch on October 24, 2006. Despite O'Donnell's report on the 1 p.m. ET hour, Witt said on the 3 p.m. ET hour that "he's [McCain] got this releasing of a new ad in South Carolina."

On the December 31, 2007, edition of NBC's Today NBC chief White House correspondent David Gregory and GOP pollster Frank Luntz highlighted McCain's "cultural and pharmaceutical" comment without noting that McCain had skipped the vote on removing the earmark.

From 1 p.m. ET hour of the January 16 edition of MSNBC Live:

O'DONNELL: This is important for John McCain. He is all-in in this state. He's got to win here to really test himself as the "first in the South" primary, which is so crucial for Republican voters. And as you know, he does not have the widespread support of core Republicans because of some of the views he's taken. And so this state, if he can prevail here, would be very, very significant for his campaign.

ROBACH: Right. He has a new television ad out, and instead of going after potential Republican candidates, he's going after Hillary Clinton, who tends to be a unifier among Republicans. Let's take a watch.

McCAIN [video clip]: A few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert museum. Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was -- I was tied up at the time. No one can be president of the United States that supports projects such as these. I'm John McCain, and I approve this message.

ROBACH: Kelly, what's the McCain strategy over the next couple of days there in South Carolina?

O'DONNELL: Well, using that ad -- they've actually played that today to crowds who have gathered to meet and talk to John McCain. They actually dusted that one off. It had debuted earlier in the political season, and if he's going to be a spendthrift, he wanted to get another use out of that ad to demonstrate that he was serving as a POW and serving his country at the time Woodstock was happening.

So again, that's a way to go after Hillary Clinton, which excites the Republican base, and to also deliver his message that he believes that government is just wasting taxpayer money and that he would do something to try to change that. So, that's really what he's going to try to do. Also, wanting to connect. I can tell you as we're driving along on the roads and highways here, the bus with his name emblazoned on the side certainly gets some attention. You occasionally get the honks and the waves, and that's part of campaigning here as well.

ROBACH: All right, Kelly O'Donnell. We appreciate it. Thank you.

From the 3 p.m. ET hour of the January 16 edition of MSNBC Live:

WITT: Senator John McCain certainly moving on very quickly, not only speaking last night to supporters in South Carolina at the end of the night when others were still in Michigan, he's got this releasing of a new ad in South Carolina. It's exactly not targeting Mitt Romney; rather, Hillary Clinton. Let's all take a look at this.

McCAIN [video clip]: A few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert museum. Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was -- I was tied up at the time. No one can be president of the United States that supports projects such as these. I'm John McCain, and I approve this message.

WITT: You've got to admit, the "cultural and pharmaceutical event" was a pretty funny line, but I'm curious about the strategy behind attacking Senator Clinton instead of the GOP rivals.

ALLEN: I think that Republicans right now want to prove to the Republican base that they are the candidate who can take on Hillary Clinton if she's the Democratic nominee. That may be the defining factor for a lot of voters -- who can win the general election, who can stop Hillary Clinton, because as all the Republicans are not galvanized behind one of their candidates right now, Republicans believe they will galvanize against Hillary Clinton.

So I think that's part of the McCain strategy here, and particularly with South Carolina, you talk about the cultural and pharmaceutical phenomenon of Woodstock. That's certainly something that doesn't really mesh well with conservative, traditional Southern values. And of course, John McCain in that same sentence -- which is probably the best line he's had in this campaign -- also making reference to his time as a captive in Vietnam.

WITT: Yeah. You know, you can't completely generalize, but the exit-polling data suggest, Jonathan, that each of the candidates in Michigan pulled in votes for different reasons, finding an allegiance among voters.

Posted In
Economy, Budget, Government
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Amy Robach, Kelly O'Donnell, Alex Witt
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live
Stories/Interests
John McCain, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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