Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign decided to jettison The Washington Times, the New York Post and the Dallas Morning News from the Democrat’s campaign plane, insisting the expulsions were due to lack of seats and not because all three newspapers endorsed Republican Sen. John McCain for president.
The campaign said it ran out of room on Mr. Obama’s Boeing 757 because more reporters and photographers from his hometown newspapers — the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times — were coming aboard, as well as reporters from black-oriented magazines Ebony and Jet and the candidate’s wife, Michelle Obama, and her Secret Service bodyguards.
Other campaign staff said space was tight because TV network news celebrities were joining the trip and the HBO documentary film crew recording the final leg of his historic run for a project by actor Edward Norton joined the plane Friday.
“Unfortunately, demand for seats on the plane during this final weekend has far exceeded supply, and because of logistical issues, we made the decision not to add a second plane,” Obama campaign senior adviser Anita Dunn said. “This means we’ve had to make hard and unpleasant for all concerned decisions about limiting some news organizations and in some cases not being in a position to offer space to news organizations altogether.”
The campaign said The Times reporter will be off the plane as of Sunday. Separately, the campaign also denied a request from a Times photographer who has traveled on the plane previously.
The three banished newspapers are known for their conservative editorial pages, which operate independently of news departments. According to Editor & Publisher, Mr. Obama leads Mr. McCain in newspaper editorial-page endorsements by a 2-to-1 margin.
The Obama campaign, defending its decision, noted that some news outlets critical of the Illinois Democrat kept their seats on the plane, including Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. The foreign press corps, which is more interested than ever in the U.S. election, also was not allowed on the Obama plane.
Spokeswoman Linda Douglass said the changes on the plane had “absolutely nothing” to do with the organizations’ coverage.
The Obama campaign said it was unable to answer The Times’ questions about which news organizations would be traveling with the candidate or how many reporters and photographers from other newspapers would be aboard the plane. The only campaign staff with that information were on the plane and not readily available to comment, Obama campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro said.
About 64 reporters, photographers and members of TV news crews were traveling with Mr. Obama as of Thursday night, according to campaign.
The Obama campaign told The Times last week that a space crunch was expected in the last days of the campaign and that it was likely to bump The Times at some point, possibly as early as Oct. 27. The campaign moved back that date through this week to enable The Times to stay on the plane, but a final decision to expel the paper Sunday was communicated on Thursday and a final appeal rejected that evening.
The Times editorial page endorsed Mr. McCain over Mr. Obama on Tuesday.
Mr. Obama racked up endorsements Oct. 16 from the Sun-Times and Oct. 17 from the Tribune, with the latter endorsing a Democrat for president the first time in the paper’s 161 years. Ebony magazine, which had never previously endorsed a presidential candidate, came out Oct. 9 for Mr. Obama, as did sister publication Jet.
The Washington Times Executive Editor John Solomon vowed that his newspaper would not be deterred from covering the Obama campaign “fairly and fully” for the final days of the race. He said reporters would fly commercial jets and drive as needed instead.