When a lone attendee at a Mitt Romney rally said President Obama should be tried for treason, Romney ignored and later disagreed with the statement. CNN correspondent Jim Acosta played up the incident big time on Tuesday's The Situation Room, using it as an example of the Romney campaign being "straight off script."
Of course, CNN is helping the Romney campaign to be "off script" by hammering them for a non-story. "I don't correct all the questions that get asked at me," Romney explained to a reporter after the event, and added that he "obviously" didn't agree with the woman. However, this prompt correction was not enough for Acosta, who insisted the campaign had veered off course. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
CNN showed far less discretion than Romney back in 2006, when reporter Susan Roesgen described a figure of President Bush's face with horns and a Hitler moustache as simply a "look-alike" of Bush. She did not denounce the despicable display, but instead put it on the air as a Bush "look-alike."
During Acosta's Tuesday report, the headline blared "Trying Obama for Treason? Romney camp falling off message," which implies the Romney campaign is either saying Obama should be tried for treason or wasting valuable time on the topic – neither of which is accurate. However, Democrats said it was an issue, and CNN reported that.
"Democrats said Romney failed the John McCain test, noting how the Arizona senator handled an unruly supporter four years ago," reported Acosta after he mentioned the incident at the rally. And he added that "Democrats sensed another gift" before covering Romney taking credit for the recovery of the U.S. auto industry.
CNN then aired an auto union worker criticizing Romney for taking credit. The United Auto Workers union is one of the biggest donors to Democrats so the criticism does not come as a surprise, and CNN did not disclose that the UAW is a Democratic heavy-hitter.
More grace was shown to Vice President Biden later in the hour for his Tuesday morning statement that drove headlines, that when Obama took office America was "the problem" in dealing with Iran.
With a headline titled "Not Your Typical Vice President," CNN's Gloria Borger noted the "difficult transition" Biden had to make from being a Senator to being a Vice President. White House correspondent Jessica Yellin admitted that "he causes headaches" but "he's perceived as far more help than hurt."
"He's a very smart guy. He's going to play a significant role as a strategist, shall we say, in the re-election campaign," said anchor Wolf Blitzer.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on May 8 on The Situation Room at 4:01 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
WOLF BLITZER: But we begin this hour with the Romney campaign having some trouble staying on message. Let's go straight to our national political correspondent Jim Acosta. He's on the campaign trail with the presumptive Republican nominee. You're in Lansing, Michgan right now. Tell us what's going on, Jim.
[HEADLINE: Trying Obama for Treason? Romney camp falling off message]
JIM ACOSTA, CNN national political correspondent: Wolf, earlier today Mitt Romney accused President Obama of governing to the left of Bill Clinton and bringing big government back with a vengeance. It is a new message for a campaign that is sometimes straight off script in recent days.
ACOSTA: (voice-over) In Michigan, Mitt Romney tried to steer his campaign back on message.
MITT ROMNEY: America's going in the wrong direction. Not forward, but sideways. Or worse.
ACOSTA: He not only hit the President's campaign slogan "Forward," but also slammed the fictional character on Mr. Obama's website "Julia," who's shown receiving help from government programs all her life.
ROMNEY: What does it say about a president's policies when he has to use a cartoon character rather than real people to justify his record?
ACOSTA: But keeping his campaign on script hasn't been easy this week. Take Monday's townhall in Ohio, where a supporter suggested the President is a traitor.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yeah I do agree he should be tried for treason.
ACOSTA: Romney didn't correct her.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Is there a reason you didn't correct her or say that you wouldn't?
ROMNEY: I answered the question.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Okay. But you don't agree with her answer?
ROMNEY: I don't correct all the questions that get asked at me. I obviously don't agree with her.
ACOSTA: Democrats said Romney failed the John McCain test, noting how the Arizona senator handled an unruly supporter four years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He's an Arab. He is not – no?
Sen. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): No. No ma'am. No ma'am. He's – he's a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with.
ACOSTA: Democrats sensed another gift when shortly after Romney's townhall, he claimed credit for the survival of the U.S. auto industry.
ROMNEY: I pushed the idea of a managed bankruptcy, so I'll take a lot of credit for the fact that this industry has come back.
ACOSTA: But just across the street from Romney's event in Michigan, protesters reminded the GOP contender he opposed the auto bailout.
RANDY FREEMAN, United Auto Workers: I don't know how he can take credit for anything.
(End Video Clip)
ACOSTA: Now the offscript bug may be catching. Just ask the director of Hispanic outreach for the Republican National Committee. She held a briefing with reporters earlier today, and when asked about Mitt Romney's position on immigration, she said quote, "To my understanding, he's still deciding what his position on immigration is. And on that same conference call, or in that same briefing with reporters, an RNC press secretary said we never said that the governor is still deciding on immigration. So sort of correcting one of their own officials with the RNC, Wolf.
But there were other offscript moments, moments that did not go the Romney campaign's way in the last 24 hours. Consider the endorsement of Rick Santorum. It came at 11:00 last night, caught a lot of reporters off guard. And Santorum doesn't get around to endorsing Romney until the 13th paragraph of the endorsement.
But keep in mind, the Democrats have their own off-message man in Vice President Joe Biden. Earlier today, as you're going to report in just a few moments, Joe Biden said we were the problem, talking about the United States when it came Iran, dealing with Iran. The Romney campaign blasted out a statement to reporters earlier this afternoon, Wolf, accusing the Obama administration of having a blame America first policy when it comes to Iran, Wolf.