Media forecast successful McCain effort to manipulate media on medical records

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER & MATT GERTZ

In two separate appearances on MSNBC Live, NBC News political director Chuck Todd discussed the announcement that Sen. John McCain will make his medical records available on May 23, suggesting first that the McCain campaign scheduled the records' availability before Memorial Day weekend to minimize coverage of them and later that such a strategy would be effective. But it is within NBC's power to prevent the strategy from working by covering the issue adequately.

In a May 22 article, The New York Times reported that Sen. John McCain's campaign "is set to release 400 pages of medical records, including documents related to his melanoma surgery in August 2000, to a tightly controlled group of reporters on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend." On that day, according to the Times, "the campaign will allow a small pool of reporters access to the records from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Pacific time in a conference room at the Copper Wind Resort in Phoenix, near the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale. The reporters will be allowed to take notes but not remove or photocopy the records." In separate appearances on MSNBC Live on May 22, NBC News political director Chuck Todd suggested first that the McCain campaign timed the records' availability to minimize coverage of them and later that the campaign would, in fact, be successful in that endeavor. But, in fact, it is within NBC's power to prevent such a strategy from working by actually covering the issue adequately.

During the 9 a.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on May 22, discussing the scheduled gathering of potential Republican vice presidential candidates at McCain's Arizona ranch this weekend, Todd stated: "I sort of call it a 'shiny object' timing. You know, it's like, pay no attention to this other news that's coming out tomorrow, and that is Senator John McCain's medical records, which could end up becoming a dominating story line for a couple days. Instead, very smartly, the McCain campaign or somebody leaked out the fact that three potential running mates ... are going to be going to the McCains' ranch." Later in the day, during the 1 p.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live, Todd said, "I think it's very helpful to McCain, frankly, that there is going to be a focus on the veep stuff, when the -- so that there isn't obsession on the medical records."

Separately, during the 1 p.m. ET hour of the MSNBC Live, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell said of the announcement regarding the medical records: "That news is likely to get buried at the start of the Memorial Day weekend."

From the 9 a.m. ET hour of the May 22 broadcast of MSNBC Live:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (anchor): And, of course, there's this meeting in Arizona this weekend -- John McCain meeting with three potential running mates. What do you make of the timing and what do you make of the possible choices here?

TODD: Well, it's interesting. I sort of call it a "shiny object" timing. You know, it's like, pay no attention to this other news that's coming out tomorrow, and that is Senator John McCain's medical records, which could end up becoming a dominating story line for a couple days. Instead, very smartly, the McCain campaign or somebody leaked out the fact that three potential running mates -- Mitt Romney, Charlie Crist of Florida, and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana -- are going to be going to the McCains' ranch. The likelihood that you'd have all three there talking about VP stuff is kind of absurd. Why would you talk about this in front of the other prospective nominees?

From the 1 p.m. ET hour of the May 22 broadcast of MSNBC Live:

TODD: It's interesting. You do wonder who leaked this information so quickly.

MITCHELL: Oh --

TODD: It's very, yeah -- I think we have an idea. I think it's very helpful to McCain, frankly, that there is going to be a focus on the veep stuff, when the -- so that there isn't obsession on the medical records. I don't think this --

MITCHELL: The medical records coming out tomorrow.

TODD: Coming out tomorrow.

MITCHELL: Briefings off-camera from his doctors, all the medical records, not only from the POW period and post-traumatic --

TODD: Which we've all seen a lot of already. They did a huge -- they really were one of the more thorough medical records --

MITCHELL: And the cancer operation.

TODD: Correct. It's more the last seven years. One of the more thorough medical record releases ever by a presidential candidate was by John McCain in 2000 -- in '99 and 2000, when he did it then. But it is this last seven years that folks are going to be interested in.

[...]

MITCHELL: Senator John McCain has quite a weekend ahead of him. For starters, he's hosting three potential vice presidential candidates at his ranch and their spouses. And then there is the long-awaited release of his medical records tomorrow with briefings from his doctors. That news is likely to get buried at the start of the Memorial Day weekend. Funny timing. So what is in John McCain's playbook for the coming weeks? Joining me now, Frank Donatelli, the deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee. Frank, good to see you again.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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