For hours, Fox News reported GOP claims about American flags -- which Cameron called "the Stars and Bars" -- before providing Dem response

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & CHRISTINE SCHWEN

On September 6, Fox News' America's Election HQ aired numerous reports documenting claims by Republicans and the McCain campaign that they "rescued" American flags that were going to be "disposed of" by the Democrats after their convention at Invesco Field. But during the reports, Fox News gave no indication that it had sought to contact a Democratic Party official or Obama campaign spokesperson for comment, and only reported a Democratic response hours after it began reporting the Republican claims.

Between noon and 3 p.m. ET on September 6, Fox News' America's Election HQ aired numerous reports documenting claims by Republicans and the McCain campaign that they "rescued" American flags that were going to be "disposed of" by the Democrats after their convention at Denver's Invesco Field. During the reports, Fox News gave no indication that it had sought to contact a Democratic Party official or Obama campaign spokesperson for comment. Rather, during the 2 p.m. hour, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron guessed what the "Obama campaign" would say in response to the story, stating: "It's the kind of thing that the Obama campaign will say, look, we ... had come and gone and some stuff just went bad on the ground. We didn't know that this was happening; it was a vendor problem; or it was the collection and the clean-up, and that it shouldn't reflect badly on [Sen. Barack] Obama."

It was not until the 3 p.m. hour of America's Election HQ that Cameron reported a Democratic response, reading a statement from the Democratic National Committee:

CAMERON: Well, the Democratic National Committee Convention's public affairs official, Damon Jones, has now put out a statement that completely changes the tenor of the story. It reads, quote, "American flags were proudly waved by 75,000 people who joined Barack Obama at the Democratic Convention. John McCain should applaud that, but instead his supporters wrongfully took leftover bundles of our flags from the stadium to play out a cheap political stunt, calling into question our patriotism. On the same day he agrees to join Barack Obama at Ground Zero on September 11, John McCain attacks the patriotism of Obama supporters who so proudly waved the American flag at our historic event in Denver just days ago."

In a separate statement, the Democratic National Convention Committee said that "[s]tories circulating about flags at the Democratic National Convention are false," and added that "the flags removed from Invesco field were intended for other events and taken without permission."

Additionally, in a September 6 Huffington Post article, national editor Nico Pitney wrote:

Fox News' Carl Cameron and Bonney Kapp reported that they had "been told" that "a vendor at Invesco Field found the flags, which were going to be thrown out, and turned them over to the McCain campaign."

The Democratic convention official says that's not true.

"It's pretty reprehensible on their part," he said. "Someone made an assumption, took the flags, and essentially lied about what was going to happen to them. I mean, c'mon, we were never ever going to throw out flags."

Emails to three McCain spokespersons inquiring where the flags were found and how the McCain campaign obtained them were not returned.

While Fox News did not air a Democratic response until hours after it first reported the story, during the noon hour of America's Election HQ, co-host Kelly Wright said: "That is a major faux pas. You never discard the American flag."

During the 2 p.m. hour, Cameron also said of the story: "[J]ust having wrapped up the conventions with every single back-and-forth a potential momentum changer, you can be absolutely certain that Republicans will assert that Democrats weren't caring for the Stars and Bars." In fact, as Merriam-Webster Dictionary notes, the "Stars and Bars" is a not a nickname for the "American flag," but rather for "the first flag of the Confederate States of America having three bars of red, white, and red respectively and a blue union with white stars in a circle representing the seceded states." Indeed, an article posted on FoxNews.com notes that "the original flag of the Confederacy" is "otherwise known as the 'Stars and Bars.' "

From the September 6 edition of America's Election HQ:

CAMERON: The Republicans today, Kelly, have something to say about the American flag. Just outside, a bunch of Boy Scouts are in the process of organizing what appear to be trash bags of American flags. They say that these American flags were found at Invesco Field in Denver, apparently left behind by the Democratic National Convention.

They say that some of these flags -- and I saw about two dozen trash bags of American flags -- they say they were both in and around dumpsters as if they were being prepared to be disposed of, others were found in various different storage facilities at Invesco Field. That will be part of the opening ceremonies as they -- the Boy Scouts bring in and show that they rescued these.

Now, this is only now developing, but it's the kind of thing, while it may not have any bearing whatsoever on Barack Obama or John McCain's presidential campaigns, it does speak to an opportunity for Republicans to sort of throw sand in the gears of the Democrats, suggesting that perhaps they didn't best care for Old Glory in the wake of their convention just a week ago. Kelly?

[...]

CAMERON: We're going to see something here, later this afternoon, before the event actually starts with Sarah Palin and Senator McCain that's quite interesting. The McCain campaign has come to possess 84 trash bags full of American flags for hand-waving. They come in bundles of 15 apiece and they come in trash bags that look something like this, and there's 84 of them that they say were rescued from Invesco Field. They say that they were found near, and in, some dumpsters and in some storage areas that looked as though they were being prepared for being discarded, and they've rescued them.

Boy scouts involved in this, the VFW [Veterans of Foreign Wars] and veterans involved in this, and the McCain campaign, as part of the warm up act here, is going to explain the provenance of these flags, how they came to have them, and then the veterans in the audience will then distribute them to the folks here -- a moment where the Republican supporters of John McCain at a rally in Colorado Springs, about 70 miles south of Denver, are able to actually use what they say are the discarded American flags from the Democratic National Convention that took place here a week and a half ago. The kind of stuff that on weekends is great sand to be tossed into the gears of the Democrats by Republicans and you can count on them to use this to criticize Democrats in general for not respecting the flag.

UMA PEMMARAJU (co-host): Boy, I guess whatever it takes to get the fireworks going on both sides. All right, Carl, thank you so much for bringing us up to date from the rally. We'll be checking back with you later on. Kelly?

WRIGHT: That is a major faux pas.

PEMMARAJU: Yes.

WRIGHT: You never discard the American flag.

PEMMARAJU: Never discard.

WRIGHT: You never do that.

[...]

PEMMARAJU: OK, we're taking you out to Colorado Springs once again, where supporters are waiting to hear from John McCain and [Gov.] Sarah Palin. And also, at the scene, they are going to be a number of veterans passing out flags that were used at the Democratic National Convention that they say were tossed out. And according to our Carl Cameron, who's on the scene there, they have calculated that about 12,000 of these small flags were discarded by the Democrats at their convention. They want to take these flags and pass them out to the people out there in the crowd to wave and to honor, saying that flags are not supposed to be thrown out like this.

WRIGHT: All right, and on the other side of this, we'll hear more about it from Carl Cameron, and my good friend and your good friend Brian Wilson's coming on, on the other side of the break, with more. Continue to watch us on Fox News Channel, America's most powerful name in news.

[...]

BRIAN WILSON (co-host): We have a Fox News Alert to tell you. You are looking at an event in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Senator McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin will be speaking shortly, but right now, there's something going on rather interesting. You see those flags in the group that are being passed out? Apparently, the story goes, these were flags that were found in Denver after the Democratic Convention in Invesco.

Some felt that the flags were being improperly discarded there in Denver so they were rescued by veterans and by Boy Scout girl -- groups and they've been in the custody of those groups until today. Now, in Colorado Spring, they've trucked them down the road a little bit and they're going to pass them out and use them in the tribute to McCain and Palin today. Our Carl Cameron is standing by there. Carl, give me the background on all this.

CAMERON: Well, Brian, after the Democratic National Convention at Invesco Field, a vendor there actually discovered these trash bags filled with these hand-waving flags, and came across some full-size American flags that had been left behind. In fact, on the left of your screen, you can see one veteran waving an American flag, a full-size flag, that he says he found basically next to a dumpster.

Those trash bags that you see volunteers picking up and carting around the stage, they are filled with dozens, even hundreds, of these hand flags. They say that there's about 12,000 of them that they found that were either in dumpsters, near dumpsters, or in storage closets, as though they were going be discarded.

And they say that they rescued them. They brought them here and using Boy Scouts and vets, they're being distributed to this massive crowd. So these 12,000 American flags will now be part of a Republican rally, even though their provenance seems to have been the Democratic National Convention. And afterwards, they've made quite a to-do about saying, please, if you don't want to take the flags home with you, if you can't give these flags a good home, make sure you return them to the McCain volunteers, because they will then take them to memorials and cemeteries and places to honor veterans and to honor America across the state of Colorado after today's event.

When they announced that these flags had seemingly been left behind, abandoned by the Democrats at their convention at Invesco Field in Denver, there was a huge roar of booing. Now, they haven't gone into the exact details of how they came to be at the Republican event here for McCain and Palin, other than to say they were discovered by vendors on the way to the trash and got rescued.

It's the kind of thing that the Obama campaign will say, look, we were -- we had come and gone and some stuff just went bad on the ground. We didn't know that this was happening; it was a vendor problem; or it was the collection and the clean-up, and that it shouldn't reflect badly on Obama. But the nature of a presidential campaign, 60 days away from the election, just having wrapped up the conventions with every single back-and-forth a potential momentum changer, you can be absolutely certain that Republicans will assert that Democrats weren't caring for the Stars and Bars.

[...]

WILSON: Fox News Alert: Look at these flags waving in the breeze there in Colorado Springs, and let me tell you the back story on why there are so many flags in that picture. This is a McCain-Palin event in Colorado Springs, just down the road a bit from Denver. The flags, as the story goes, were found by vendors who were cleaning up after the Democratic National Committee at Invesco Field.

They claim these flags were found near dumpsters on their way to the trash can, and they stepped in and rescued them. It is not clear yet how exactly they got to the McCain camp, but the McCain camp is now passing out those very same flags to all of the people assembled -- and it's a pretty good crowd there in Colorado Springs today -- and they are going to use them and they've asked people there to honor the flags and to not dispose of them improperly.

[...]

WILSON: Now, here at Fox News, we always strive to be fair and balanced, and earlier in the afternoon, we heard a little bit from the Obama campaign as he was traveling around Indiana, and so, in a few moments, when they get into the heart of the speech, we will actually listen in to John McCain and Governor Palin as they speak.

Let me just talk about this other controversy that's going on while we're waiting for the hellos to get through, and that is that the flags that you see in foreground, something of a controversy brewing about those. The story goes that they were rescued by vendors at -- in Denver following the Democratic National Convention as they were cleaning up at Invesco Field. They found trash bag after trash bag after trash bag of American flags, and they rescued them, turned them over -- somehow they got into the hands of the Republicans -- and they're being distributed at this event in Colorado Springs. Let's listen in to Sarah Palin, the person that many people in political circles are focused on right now. Let's see what she has on her mind.

[...]

WILSON: Well, you've been listening to John McCain in Colorado Springs. Let me just give you a little background, as we can perhaps pull that other shot we have that shows so many flags in the background at this rally. These flags, the story goes, were rescued at Invesco Field after the Democratic National Convention ended. During the clean-up, they were -- according to the people at the campaign event today in Colorado Springs -- discarded by the Democrats, and they were rescued and brought to this event and passed out, and the crowd was asked to make sure that if you keep this flag, that you treat it with respect -- and so the Republicans getting a little bit of mileage out of that today.

[...]

WILSON: Carl, explain to us what's going on with this flag controversy at the rally today.

CAMERON: Oh, it's the delicious part of presidential politics that really doesn't have a great deal to do with issues, but has a great deal to do with character and the perception of both parties.

Earlier this morning, as we arrived here in Colorado Springs with a massive crowd, several -- maybe more then -- about 10,000 people or so, lined up literally for a mile and a half. We began to hear rumblings of a story in which the McCain campaign was going to announce that they had rescued some 12,000 American flags -- Old Glory -- that they had found, essentially packed up for disposal at the Invesco Field in Denver, in the wake of the Democratic National Committee -- Convention last week.

Now, they said that they found these things near dumpsters, around dumpsters, as though they were going to be tossed out. And in fact, they were in over 84 green trash bags, literally 12,000 of these types of flags. Well, they distributed them at the rally today, and Democrats were booed when the assertion was made from the podium that they were essentially being mishandled and thrown away -- throwing away Old Glory.

Well, the Democratic National Committee Convention's public affairs official, Damon Jones, has now put out a statement that completely changes the tenor of this story. It reads, quote, "American flags were proudly waved by 75,000 people who joined Barack Obama at the Democratic Convention. John McCain should applaud that, but instead, his supporters wrongfully took leftover bundles of our flags from the stadium to play out a cheap political stunt, calling into question our patriotism. On the same day he agrees to join Barack Obama at Ground Zero on September 11, John McCain attacks the patriotism of Obama supporters who so proudly waved the American flag at our historic event in Denver just days ago."

And that's from Damon Jones, the spokesperson for the convention. Translation: Democrats are saying Republicans stole their flags. And they weren't throwing them out, they were sending them back to the manufacturer for redistribution. They were going to appropriately handle them, and they were absconded with for this display today.

He said, she said, or he said, he said, in this case. Brian, it's the type of stuff that really throws major sand in the gears for this particular campaign.

WILSON: Well --

CAMERON: Republicans trying to mess up Democrats by saying that they're not appropriately dealing with the flag, and Democrats saying, wait a minute, you took them. Now, the issue about the joint appearance -- that's coming up this Thursday on the anniversary of September 11th. Barack Obama and John McCain will both appear together at a forum in New York City. So, that's what their reference to in the statement is, that is on their schedule, both of them together. Now comes the controversy over who took care of the flag and who didn't, Brian.

WILSON: Carl Cameron, the game is on, and that little gamesmanship going on about the American flag, we'll sort it all out and we'll try to get down to the bottom of it in the hours ahead. Thank you much, Carl.

[...]

GREGG JARRETT (co-host): All right, Carl, there's this controversy that seems to be swirling around involving flags. What is that all about?

CAMERON: Yeah, I'm sorry, Gregg, we've got a little bit of an audio problem, but I do want to tell you about a story that had sort of unfolded here at the Colorado Springs rally today. In the run-up to the appearance of Senator McCain and Sarah Palin, the organizers and volunteers unloaded some 12,000 small American flags -- here's the type we're talking about.

They say that they were found by a vendor at Invesco Field up in Denver -- where the Democrats had their convention last week --prepared for disposal. Some, they say, were actually in dumpsters. Well, the Democratic camp -- the Democratic National Committee has now put out a statement saying that they weren't mishandling these flags, that they weren't being tossed out. They essentially argue that they were pilfered, and there's a statement that says, quote, "American flags were proudly waved by the 70,000 people who joined Barack Obama at the Democratic Convention. John McCain should applaud that, but instead, supporters wrongfully took leftover bundles of our flags from the stadium to play out a cheap political stunt, calling into question our patriotism."

The allegation here, Gregg, is that the Democrats are saying Republicans swiped the flags and then claimed that the Democrats were going to be throwing them out. A back-and-forth, a back-and-forth all over how best to take care of Old Glory and right now, the Republicans say, look, this stuff was in dumpsters; Democrats said, basically, they were ripped off.

JARRETT: Yeah, well, if that was true, it would be a pretty nefarious plan.

Posted In
Elections, Government
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Carl Cameron
Show/Publication
America's Election HQ
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John McCain, 2008 Elections
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