- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2008

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A newspaper is asking Sen. John McCain’s presidential 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 the Arizona senator. Mr. Price said no, and the agent told him he had to leave. Mr. 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 officer quickly approached with his hand on his holster and asked what the problem was, Mr. Price said. At the same time, Palm Beach Post reporter Dara Kam came to Mr. Price’s defense and was told she also had to leave, Mr. Price said.

The other two reporters, Alex Leary of the St. Petersburg Times and Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald, weren’t removed.

Mr. Caputo, however, said that initially he also was told he had to leave the area.

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.

Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said two other Florida reporters were removed along with Mr. Price and any other reporters who weren’t with the national press should have been removed as well. At all campaign events, national and local press are separated for logistical reasons.

“Race played absolutely no role in any actions taken by our employees or anybody else in this case,” Mr. Zahren said.

Mr. 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.

In other campaign news, Mr. McCain conceded in a new television commercial on Tuesday that “we’re worse off than we were four years ago,” and said he is the candidate best positioned to usher in an era of change.

“Washington’s broken. John McCain knows it,” says the commercial, which is implicitly critical of both President Bush and Barack Obama.

It is unusual for a presidential candidate to part company with an administration of the same party, but Mr. McCain may have little choice, with public opinion polls showing the public is eager for change after eight years of the Bush administration.

Meanwhile in Ohio, Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama sought Tuesday to link the troubled economy with Republican policies and offer his own energy plan in contrast. He has tried to cast Mr. McCain as more concerned about oil company profits and drilling than an overall energy strategy.

However, Mr. Obama himself voted for a 2005 energy bill backed by Mr. Bush that included billions in subsidies for oil and natural gas production, a measure Vice President Dick Cheney played a major role in developing. Mr. McCain opposed the bill on grounds it included billions in unnecessary tax breaks for the oil industry.

The Obama campaign has said the Illinois senator supported the legislation because it included huge investments in renewable energy.

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