Perhaps the most interesting thing about Michael Meehan’s mugging of TWS reporter John McCormack is the assumption that apparently drove him to harass a journalist. At the two-question “press conference” Coakley held outside of the swank Capitol Hill restaurant that hosted her high-dollar fundraiser, McCormack asked the would-be senator about her claim that the terrorists had left Afghanistan. The video shows Coakley listening carefully, smiling and then moving on.
“I’m sorry, did someone else have a question?”
Coakley’s smug and deliberate refusal to answer McCormack’s question was odd. So was Meehan’s bizarre attempt to muscle McCormack aside as he followed the candidate seeking an answer to his question.
But a new AP story about the incident is revealing on several levels. The headline of the story tells readers “Reporter Stumbles Chasing Hopeful for Kennedy Seat.” The headline is silly -- the AP isn’t really reporting that a journalist stumbled covering a campaign appearance. That’s not news.
The AP story was clearly written as an attempt at correcting McCormack’s version of the story as it appeared on the TWS website this morning. In that account, McCormack reports that he was pushed by someone affiliated with the Coakley campaign.
But the AP story, after a headline that suggests McCormack fell on his own, reports that “photos and video show Coakely aide Michael Meehan trying to help McCormack up.”
Then, without sourcing, the AP report offers an excuse for Meehan’s behavior.
“A scuffle broke out as Meehan tried to block McCormack and determine whether he was an operative of a rival campaign.”
How does the reporter know what made Meehan block McCormack? Did Meehan or someone affiliated with the Coakley campaign tell him that?
So the reporter discounts McCormack’s report that he was pushed -- something that shouldn’t be hard to believe given the video of Meehan aggressively shoving McCormack after his tumble. But the same reporter accepts and prints the campaign’s excuse that they were physical with McCormack because they thought he might be representing a rival campaign?
Which raises another question: Why would the Coakley campaign suspect that someone asking a tough question at a press conference would be a political rival? Isn’t the entire point of a press conference to allow reporters to ask tough questions?
One possible explanation is that the Coakley campaign is so unaccustomed to tough questioning from reporters that its reflexive assumption is that any difficult questions must come from political opponents.
Given the lapdog performance of David Gergen as moderator of Monday’s debate -- which closed after Gergen grilled Republican Scott Brown about being pro-life and gently asked Coakley if she had any regrets about her campaign -- and the willingness of the AP to serve as an arm of the Coakley press office, that’s understandable.