US Senator Barack Obama’s stock as a superstar candidate rose even further on Thursday amid reports that his first tour of Europe and the Middle East as Democratic presidential contender will be followed in detail by US television’s top news anchors and printed media star reporters.
The first black White House contender’s trip has generated such a media frenzy that his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, has branded it a “political stunt” and an overseas campaign rally with little in the way of fact-finding objectives.
News organizations are practically tripping over each other to get coverage deals for the trip with the Obama campaign.
ABC’s Charles Gibson, NBC’s Brian Williams and CBS’ Katie Couric — the top three news anchors of US network television — have already cut deals to follow Obama’s footsteps next week in Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and Britain.
“Our plan right now is for Charlie to conduct an interview with Senator Obama at some point during the trip, but we are working out the details,” ABC spokeswoman Natalie Raabe said.
In all, some 200 journalists are vying for 40 accredited spots to accompany the 46-year-old candidate on his foreign trip, the Washington Post said.
Besides his tour of Europe and the Middle East next week, Obama may also fit in surprise visits to Iraq and Afghanistan, but nothing official has been announced for security reasons.
The attention to the trip has some Republicans complaining it puts McCain at a disadvantage in getting his message across.
McCain’s visit to Europe and the Middle East in March received much more low key media coverage. No anchors accompanied him on the tour.
McCain told a town hall meeting in Missouri on Thursday that his opponent should wait until after his visit to Afghanistan and Iraq before pronouncing on his war policies.
His aides made a similar point even more sharply.
“Let’s drop the pretence that this is a fact-finding trip and call it what it is: the first of its kind campaign rally overseas,” Jill Hazelbaker told reporters yesterday.
US Representative Eric Cantor, a high-profile McCain backer, said Obama’s tour had turned into a huge media event.
“The question really needs to be posed — is this type of coverage fair? This is nothing but a political stunt,” he said.
CBS official Paul Friedman told the New York Times the media frenzy over Obama’s trip was justified because it was the Illinois senator’s first trip abroad.
ABC’s Natalie Raab said: “I think we are covering both candidates aggressively and fairly.”
Media watchdog Tindall Report said ABC, CBS and NBC — with a combined audience of 20 million — had given Obama 114 minutes of television time since June, compared with 48 minutes for McCain.
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