[Guest post by DRJ]
“I wasn’t at the Scranton event, but I have to say the Secret Service is in dangerous territory here. In cooperation with the Palin campaign, they’ve started preventing reporters from leaving the press section to interview people in the crowd. This is a serious violation of their duty — protecting the protectee — and gets into assisting with the political aspirations of the candidate. It also often makes it impossible for reporters to get into the crowd to question the people who say vulgar things. So they prevent reporters from getting near the people doing the shouting, then claim it’s unfounded because the reporters can’t get close enough to identify the person.”
Today the Secret Service denied Milbank’s claim:
“It’s not a function of the Secret Service to prevent or limit reporters from interviewing the people at events,” said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan. “We’ve never been asked by any campaign to do that.”
Donovan said that at rallies for all the candidates, the Secret Service sometimes separates the press corps that is credentialed to cover the event—known as the pool—from the general public. That is for logistical and security reasons, he said.
“Being in a press pool gives them special access,” said Donovan. “But the other side is that they have to stay together. You keep national press away from the local press for the same reason.”
Any journalist can get around these restrictions simply by attending the rally as a member of the public rather than a part of the press pool, he said.”
Milbank attended an early October rally in Clearwater FL where he also reported a slew of slurs by Palin supporters and was among the first to report that someone at a GOP rally yelled “Kill him.” William March at the Tampa Bay Online raised doubts about this incident, reporting that while one anonymous contact claimed someone yelled “Kill him” regarding William Ayers, two other persons heard a man near Milbank yell “Tell him” which could have been mistaken for “Kill him.”
Milbank’s most recent comments were made, in part, in response to a claim by a Scranton PA reporter that another Palin supporter yelled “Kill him” at a Scranton rally, a claim the Secret Service has since called unfounded.