Landstuhl clarifies press rules for aborted Obama visit
By STEVE MRAZ | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 1, 2008
LANDSTUHL, Germany – Although news outlets have reported charges that Sen. Barack Obama canceled his trip to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany because the media weren’t allowed to cover the event, U.S. European Command officials say plans were in place to allow limited press coverage.
All media, including local press and the more than 40 journalists accompanying the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee on his eight-day international trip last week, would have been able to photograph the Illinois senator entering and leaving the hospital, said Air Force Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a U.S. European Command spokesman.
Defense Department public affairs policy guidance on media coverage of candidates visiting military installations states "under no circumstances may a candidate receive approval to make a campaign or election-related statement or to respond to a campaign or election-related media query."
The guidance also states that "the candidate may appear on camera and in photographs as an official participant and may make a statement or answer questions about the official business being conducted."
Obama’s canceled July 25 visit to Landstuhl sparked a strong and lingering reaction from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain over allegations that Obama canceled the trip because media could not cover the event. The McCain campaign has since aired a TV commercial blasting Obama for his no-show at Landstuhl.
An ongoing back-and-forth has ensued, with McCain accusing Obama of canceling the hospital trip because he wasn’t allowed to bring reporters.
Obama responded on Saturday, telling reporters he nixed the hospital visit because it would have been perceived as political since he sought to have a campaign staffer accompany him to Landstuhl, according to The Washington Post.
Defense Department policy guidance states that candidates cannot use military facilities for political campaign or election events.
Obama’s visit would have been unique because he would have been the first U.S. Congress member to visit the hospital alone this year.
In 2008, Landstuhl has hosted eight congressional delegations, and each of those delegations was composed of three to eight Congress members, Dorrian said.
McCain last visited Landstuhl on April 5, 2007, as part of a congressional delegation.
McCain’s visit was closed to the press.