Army limits media access at Palin event at NC base

AP News
Posted: Nov 20, 2009 10:08 AM

The U.S. Army will allow the media limited coverage of Sarah Palin's appearance at Fort Bragg, but will bar reporters from interviewing her or her supporters on the post, officials said Thursday.

A Fort Bragg spokesman initially said the Army would ban the media from Palin's book signing next week, fearing it would turn into political grandstanding against President Barack Obama. After The Associated Press and The Fayetteville Observer protested, Col. Billy Buckner said the post would permit restricted access.

A small pool of reporters will be allowed to view and document the event but will be barred from the interviews. The public will be allowed.

Buckner said the setup will allow reporters their right to access while preventing the appearance from turning political _ something that officials believe would violate policy.

"If media are present, they can capture the imagery of what's going and sort of the ambiance of what's taking place," he said.

Fort Bragg, which is base for some 35,000 soldiers, does not hold many promotional events, especially not with political figures. Officials said they worried that media coverage would turn the appearance into a chance for people to express political opinions "directed against the commander in chief."

"The main reason is to stop this from turning into a political platform," said Fort Bragg spokesman Tom McCollum. "There are Army regulations that basically prohibit military reservations from becoming political platforms by politicians."

AP Associate General Counsel Dave Tomlin called the proposed pools and restrictions on interviews "unlawful and unacceptable."

"If Army regulations forbid 'political events', the Army should have considered that before allowing Palin to hold a public autograph session for a political book on the base," Tomlin said.

Palin has agreed not to give a speech, McCollum said. Palin will sign her new book for people and will not stop to pose for photographs, officials said.

A spokeswoman for the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor didn't immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment and a spokeswoman for Palin's publisher, HarperCollins, did not immediately return a call.

Palin began a promotional tour this week for her memoir, "Going Rogue," with plans to travel through several states that were key to the 2008 election, including North Carolina. She made several stops in the state while campaigning on the ticket of GOP presidential nominee John McCain.

McCollum said it's not clear if military officials consider Palin a politician but noted that she has been critical of Obama while promoting the book. She said in an interview with ABC News that Obama should provide more troops to Afghanistan.

"It frustrates me and frightens me _ and many Americans _ that President Obama is dithering around with the decision in Afghanistan," she said.

Palin doesn't appear to be using her book signings to promote her politics. She spoke briefly to supporters in Michigan on Wednesday, saying it was great to be there and not mentioning Obama.

At least one person in the crowd yelled: "Palin power. 2012, yes."


Associated Press Writer Kathy Barks Hoffman contributed to this report from Grand Rapids, Mich.