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Keep that clapping down when Barack Obama enters the room!

July 27, 2008 |  2:15 pm

Barack Obama addresses the candidates' forum at UNITY '08. 

Fresh off his visit to three European capitals, where cheering crowds greeted his every move, Sen. Barack Obama spoke on Sunday to journalists attending Unity '08 in his hometown of Chicago.

The conference brought together members of the National Assn. of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Assn., the National Assn. of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalists Assn., and Obama's remarks were broadcast live on CNN.

Concern that an enthusiastic reaction to Obama’s nationally televised remarks might be viewed as unprofessional led conference organizers to send out an e-mail to 6,800 attendees, urging restraint: 

“Every effort should be made to maintain professional decorum during the event, especially since it will be broadcast to millions of people who will be watching an audience of journalists listening to comments of a political candidate for the U.S. presidency.”

They were looking to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2004, when some attendees gave that year's Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John F. Kerry, a standing ovation, while President Bush was the recipient of boos.

But despite the official entreaty, the convention hall erupted in loud applause when the presumptive Democratic nominee walked in, and many in the audience left their seats to take pictures of the candidate when he finished.

"Our readers expect a certain distance, and applauding closes the gap,” said Les Payne, a columnist for Newsday. “That said, there are not just journalists here. There are family members and people in other professions.”   

Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee-in-waiting, was also invited to speak at the conference, but his campaign declined, citing scheduling conflicts. McCain spent the day at his home in Sedona, Ariz., and leaves Monday morning for events in California.

McCain’s decision not to attend prompted one attendee to accuse the Arizona senator of “blowing off” an invitation to address thousands of journalists while complaining that “the media isn’t giving him enough love.”

-- John Mitchell

Photo credit: Associated Press