‘No Softball Questions’ for Biden or Any Candidate, Florida TV News Director Says

By Josiah Ryan | October 27, 2008 | 7:19pm EDT

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden waves to the crowd as he campaigned for Barack Obama in Greensboro, N.C. on Monday, Oct. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/ News-Record/ H. Scott Hoffmann)

(CNSNews.com) - The news director of an Orlando-based TV station that conducted an interview with Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) on Thursday, said he and the station stand by the questions anchorwoman Barbara West asked the senator.
Those questions – for one of which Biden replied, “Is this a joke?” – prompted the Obama-Biden campaign to cancel a scheduled interview with Jill Biden, the senator’s wife, and to inform the TV station that future interviews were “unlikely.”
“Senator Biden wants to be vice president of the United States, and we are going to ask him tough questions,” Robert Jordan, news director for WFTV- Orlando, told CNSNews.com on Monday. “We are not just going to ask him softball questions. When you get a shot to ask these candidates questions, you want to make the most of it.”
In the Oct. 23 interview, West asked Biden several questions, including: “Senator Obama now famously told Joe the Plumber that he wants to spread his wealth around.  Isn’t Senator Obama’s comment a potentially crushing political blunder?” and, “How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?”
When the Marxist-wealth redistribution question came up, Biden asked, “Are you joking? Is this is a joke? Is that a real question?”
According to an Orlando Sentinel article on Friday, the Obama campaign responded to the interview by informing WFTV that they were canceling an interview with Jill Biden and that further contact between the campaign and the station is unlikely.
"This cancellation is non-negotiable, and further opportunities for your station to interview with this campaign are unlikely, at best for the duration of the remaining days until the election," Laura K. McGinnis, the Central Florida communications director for the Obama campaign, was quoted as saying.
Obama's Florida spokeswoman, Adrianne Marsh, also released a statement claiming the interview was "combative and woefully uninformed about simple facts."
"There's nothing wrong with tough questions, but reporters have the very important job of sharing the truth with the public – not misleading the American people with false information," Marsh said. "Senator Biden handled the interview well. However, the anchor was completely unprofessional.”
Kelly McBride, a faculty member at the Poynter Institute – a resource group for journalists in Florida, which owns The Saint Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly, told CNSNews.com that the interview was “a classic case of partisan journalism.”
“I think it’s absolutely horrible journalism,” McBride said. “It’s an example of a loaded question where she is presuming the answer. She has no intention of exploring for the audience the positions of the candidate. It’s clearly partisan.”
West’s interview with Biden on Thursday prompted McCain, who interviewed with her on Monday, to interrupt at the beginning of the segment and warn her not to be too tough on him.
“Now don’t say anything mean or I am going to be angry,” said McCain.
West opened the interview by asking McCain if he thought his running mate, Sarah Palin, was distancing herself from him because she thought their ticket would lose the election in November.
“Is that indicative that she believes her campaign is not going to win and she is positioning herself for the future?” asked West. 

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