- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) — Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who has not held a press conference in nearly four weeks of campaigning, initially barred reporters from her first meetings with world leaders Tuesday, but reversed course after they protested.

At first, campaign aides told the TV producer, print and news agency reporters in the press pool that followed the Alaska governor that they would not be admitted along with still photographers and a video camera crew taken in to photograph her meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who are here for the United Nations General Assembly this week. She also was to meet later with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

These sessions and meetings scheduled for Wednesday are part of the Republican campaign’s effort to give Palin experience in foreign affairs. She has never met a foreign head of state and first traveled outside North America just last year.

At least two news organizations, including The Associated Press, objected to the exclusion of reporters and were told that the decision was not subject to discussion. Presidents and members of Congress routinely allow reporters to attend photo opportunities along with photographers and the reporters sometimes are able to ask questions during the brief photo sessions, usually held at the beginning of private meetings.

CNN, which was providing the television coverage for news organizations, decided to pull its TV crew from the first meeting, with Karzai, effectively denying Palin the high visibility she had sought. But after the campaign agreed to let CNN’s producer in as well, the CNN camera crew joined the session.

According to the CNN producer who was let into Karzai’s hotel suite with the photographers just before noon, Karzai was talking about his son. Palin was nodding, and asked what his name is. Karzai replied his name was Mirwais and explained that it means light of the house.

The media were escorted out after about 40 seconds.

Campaign aides subsequently announced that reporters would be allowed to accompany photographers into the later sessions with Uribe and Kissinger.

At that point, campaign spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said it was all just a “miscommunication.” Earlier, she had said, “The decision was made for this to be a photo spray with still cameras and video cameras only.”

Palin has been criticized for avoiding taking questions from reporters or submitting to one-on-one interviews. She has had just two major interviews since Republican presidential candidate John McCain chose her as his running mate on Aug. 29.

On Wednesday, McCain and Palin were expected to meet jointly with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko. Palin was then to meet separately with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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