On her Friday 1 p.m. ET MSNBC show, NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell characterized Sarah Palin participating in the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally in Washington as a "distraction," with the headline on-screen wondering if the former Alaska Governor was "stealing their thunder."
After declaring that Palin was "once again showing that she sure knows how to seize the political spotlight," Mitchell spoke with Rolling Thunder spokesman Ted Shpak, and asked: "When did you first hear that Sarah Palin was coming? Did you invite her?" Shpak incorrectly claimed: "No, she wasn't invited. We heard yesterday she came out with a press release that she was coming to Rolling Thunder."
In reality, as Hot Air's Ed Morrissey reported on Saturday, there was a miscommunication within the Rolling Thunder organization. He detailed a conversation he had with another organization spokesperson, Christine Colborne: "She explained that Shpak didn’t know that Palin had been indeed invited to ride at the event. The invitation came from a retired board member, Michael DiPaolo, who had connections in Alaska and got Palin to agree to attend....Colborne....explained that the last-minute RSVP didn’t get communicated through the echelons of Rolling Thunder."
During the Friday segment, Mitchell played up Shpak's objections to Palin's attendance: "I know it's an open event. She can get on the back of a Harley, but you're not exactly going to have her bus as part of you're event?" Shpak replied: "Absolutely not. We're not endorsing – you know, we're here for a reason. And our – in a way this has been taking away from the reason we're here." Mitchell concluded: "So you think it's a distraction? I don't want to put words in your mouth, but-" Shpak added: "No, you don't have to put words in my mouth. It is a big distraction because my phone's been ringing off the hook ever since she did that, she announced that."
So far, Mitchell has failed to offer any correction to her Friday segment.
Here is a full transcript of Mitchell's May 27 interview with Shpak:
ANDREA MITCHELL: Meanwhile, back here, Sarah Palin once again showing that she sure knows how to seize the political spotlight. She's kicking off a national bus tour of east coast historic sites this weekend, with plans to stop at Gettysburg, the Liberty Bell and then New Hampshire. The first time since 2008.
Her tour kicks off at Rolling Thunder, the annual motorcycle rally held in Washington in support of the nation's veterans, particularly those held captive or missing in action, a very serious purpose here on Memorial Day weekend. Ted Shpak is a spokesman for Rolling Thunder and he joins us now. Ted, first of all, when did you first hear that Sarah Palin was coming? Did you invite her?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Stealing Their Thunder?; Sarah Palin Announces Multi-State Bus Tour]
TED SHPAK: No, she wasn't invited. We heard yesterday she came out with a press release that she was coming to Rolling Thunder.
MITCHELL: Well, what role do you expect that she would play? You've got an event. You have a rally at the Pentagon. This is something that happens every year. We all here in Washington look forward to it. So how is she going to fit into this?
SHPAK: Okay, we've got to remember, we – first of all, Rolling Thunder, it's a demonstration for the prisoner of war issue, veterans issues, taking care of our troops, taking care of our military. And this is why we do this run. Now, anybody, as you probably know, we have a lot of people that show up in town for this weekend. And this is the weekend – the reason that we're here is because of them reasons.
Now, we didn't invite her. I heard stories, people calling me and says we endorsed her. We don't endorse nobody. She's not – we have our program after our run, down at the – by the Lincoln Memorial. And she's not invited to speak. We're not endorsing her. But she's – we can't stop her from coming to ride, if she wants to ride. That's fine because, you know, we don't-
MITCHELL: No, I know it's an open event. She can get on the back of a Harley, but you're not exactly going to have her bus as part of you're event?
SHPAK: Absolutely not. We're not endorsing – you know, we're here for a reason. And our – in a way this has been taking away from the reason we're here.
MITCHELL: So you think it's a distraction? I don't want to put words in your mouth, but-
SHPAK: No, you don't have to put words in my mouth. It is a big distraction because my phone's been ringing off the hook ever since she did that, she announced that. And, you know, we're not – we're not political. This is not a political event. We don't want – you know, maybe she's coming because she knows we have a half a million people in town and thinking she can start her, you know, it is just the way it came out, she's saying we endorsed her, we're not endorsing anybody. And she's not speaking on our stage during our program. We're taking care of our issues and that's why we're here.
MITCHELL: Ted Shpak, thank you very much, and we all look forward to the rally this weekend and we know the serious purpose that motivates what you've been doing for decades now here in Washington on Memorial Day weekend. Thank you.
SHPAK: Thank you, Andrea.