Rick Warren responds to the flap over McCain and Saddleback questions
As it has turned out, John McCain was not entirely confined in the type of hermetically sealed environment that Rick Warren suggested when the pastor referred to the "cone of silence" surrounding the Republican before his appearance Saturday at Saddleback Church in Orange County.
But Warren, in interview segments posted earlier today on the God-O-Meter at Beliefnet.com (yes, that's the blog's moniker), takes great umbrage to claims that McCain got tipped to some of the queries he would face when he followed Barack Obama onstage at the much-anticipated event.
McCain was headed to the church -- in a motorcade supervised by the Secret Service -- when Warren's interview with Obama began. Upon arriving at the church, he was taken to a so-called "green room" to await his turn.
God-O-Meter Editor Dan Gilgoff asked Warren (who is much in demand after his turn as candidate inquisitor) about assertions by Obama backers that McCain got the heads-up, meaning he wouldn't have to think as fast on his feet as his rival.
"They're dead wrong. That's just sour grapes..." Warren responds.
Gilgoff presses the matter, saying: "A source at the debate tells me that McCain had access to some communications devices in the few minutes before he went on stage with you and that there was a monitor in his green room, in violation of the debate rules."
Responds Warren: "That's absolutely a lie, absolutely a lie. That room was totally free, with no monitors -- a flat out lie."
Warren's answer, of course, doesn't cover the possibility that McCain got wind, while in his motorcade, of what....
...Obama was being asked. But his campaign sought today to scotch such speculation.
The Times' Maeve Reston reports that Brooke Buchanan, a McCain aide who was in the entourage, says the candidate was not privy to the interview during that period and did not receive any e-mails about it.
Rick Davis, McCain's increasingly feisty campaign manager, had already moved to put NBC on the defensive after journalist Andrea Mitchell, during Sunday's "Meet the Press" show, mentioned that some "Obama people" were insinuating that McCain had somehow gotten advance notice of specific questions Warren would be posing.
As Mike Allen of Politico.com reported Sunday night, Davis fired off a letter to Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, objecting to Mitchell broaching the issue and portraying it as an indication that the network was "abandoning nonpartisan coverage of the presidential race." Davis asked for a meeting with Capus "to discuss our deep concerns about the news standards and level of objectivity at NBC."
Our colleague Frank James offers this take at The Swamp on the flap over whether McCain, as the posting's headline puts it, cheated at Saddleback.
And the New York Times Caucus blog details that Warren, aside from outlining in advance for Obama and McCain general topics he would cover, also told each well before the forum convened that he would specifically pose these queries: What is your greatest moral failing? What is America’s greatest moral failing? And who are the three people you rely on most for wise advice?
-- Don Frederick
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