In April, I had the privilege of being a guest on Steve Batton’s morning radio show in Hampton Roads, Va. - a show that at the time aired on a low-wattage mom-and-pop station. Following my appearance, Steve had some very exciting news to share with me.
Starting in June, he said, Hampton Roads was going to launch a full-blown, 24/7 conservative talk-radio station with a powerful signal - Freedom 1650-AM. As if that weren’t enough, helping kick off the station with a salute to the military and first responders was going to be none other than former Alaskan Gov. and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
I was floored.
Not only was Hampton Roads finally going to get a solid conservative radio station, complete with Steve, Dr. Laura Schlesinger, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Dennis Miller, but Palin, arguably the most popular conservative speaker on the circuit, was going to help launch it.
All that said, Steve had one more tidbit up his sleeve - he asked me to be on the floor and live-blog the festivities.
Needless to say, I said, “Yes!”
When the day finally arrived, my colleague Brian Kirwin and I eagerly went to the Ted Constant Convocation Center at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., several hours early to make sure we would have no trouble setting up my computer, camera, recording devices, etc.
Of course, when we arrived, we were provided the “rules.”
According to the media representatives helping coordinate the event - who we have since learned were not on the governor’s staff - the governor could only be photographed for the first five minutes of her speech, which could not be recorded and distributed in its entirety. I asked Steve if it still would be OK to record the event, but use only clips for my podcast - and he said that would be fine.
Only Mrs. Palin can get a couple thousand people out on a hot, steamy Virginia night and listen to Republican red meat. Even the other luminaries who appeared onstage that evening - Lee Greenwood, Oliver North, George Allen and Jay Sekulow - would have had a difficult time drawing such an audience in liberal Norfolk - let alone on the campus of Old Dominion on a Sunday night in the summer.
But there they were - at least 2,000 adoring fans cheering at the top of their lungs as the former governor strode onto the stage. I was reminded of the 18,000 who saw her when I live-blogged her and Sen. John McCain’s appearance in Virginia Beach in 2008.
And then it happened.
“Sir, you have five minutes to shut down and clean up,” said a voice in the pitch-dark arena.
“Excuse me?” I said. I was dumbfounded. “I have permission to be here from the event coordinator and an ‘all access’ pass - what do you mean I have to shut down?”
“The governor’s ground rules state you can only be here for the first five minutes - you have to leave.”
What in the world was this guy talking about? We ignored him.
A few moments later, he returned and reiterated his point. Then he came back a third time.
Not wanting to create a scene in the middle of this exciting moment, and knowing Steve was extremely busy, I capitulated.
I typed my last entry into the live blog: “So much for transparency. We’re being kicked out.”
We shut down our computers, stowed the digital camera and stopped my hand-held voice recorder. We were done.
I thought about staying and listening, but the speech was boilerplate, and I was ticked. Brian stuck around.
Mrs. Palin, please change your rules. Let conservatives cover you. Let anyone cover you. You have a lot to offer.
J.R. Hoeft is the publisher of the conservative Virginia political blog BearingDrift.com.