TALLAHASSEE (AP) _ A newspaper is asking John McCain’s campaign why a black reporter assigned to cover a rally was singled out by security and told to leave a backstage area.
Stephen Price, a reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat, was among four Florida capital press corps reporters behind the scenes at a Panama City rally Friday when a Secret Service agent approached and asked if he was part of the national media traveling with McCain. Price said no, and the agent told him he had to leave. Price said he then pointed out that there were other state reporters in the same area, but was still told to leave. The other reporters were white.
A Panama City police office quickly approached with his hand on his holster and asked what the problem was, Price said. At the same time Palm Beach Post reporter Dara Kam came to Price’s defense and was told she also had to leave, Price said.
The other two reporters, Alex Leary of the St. Petersburg Times and Marc Caputo of The Miami Herald, weren’t removed.
Caputo, however, said that initially he also was told he had to leave the area.
“Security was tight and was a bit over-controlling, which is par for the course at these events. And, as par for the course, I tried to get near the candidate when I saw another reporter there (Alex Leary). Security tried to throw me out, but I found a McCain staffer I knew and the person vouched for me,” Caputo said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
The McCain campaign said it asked Secret Service to look into the events.
“The campaign looked into this, and found that no one from the campaign was involved,” said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers.
The Secret Service did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment.
Price said he could think of no other reason why he was approached other than his race. He said he had to show his media credentials to get into the area, and that he was there for several minutes before being removed.
“It was just a really crazy situation. We were being carted out of there and everyone was looking,” Price said, adding that he felt upset and humiliated. He said he hasn’t received an apology from the McCain campaign.
The newspaper’s executive editor, Bob Gabordi, said he has sought an explanation from the McCain campaign and hasn’t received one.
“I’m upset because my reporter was singled out for whatever reason. That bothers me. We’re just trying to figure out what that reason was,” Gabordi said.
But he added that he keeps going over the facts and he hasn’t found a reason except that Price is black.
Gabordi also said he doesn’t think McCain would condone what happened.
“I think it was about security and security acting overzealous and security singling out a black reporter to be removed,” Gabordi said. “That’s not giving him (McCain) a pass on it. I think his campaign does have an obligation to figure out what happened and to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”