McCain camp denies town hall tinkering

Accuses NBC News of partisan election coverage

NEW YORK -- The John McCain campaign fired off an angry letter to NBC News criticizing Andrea Mitchell's comments regarding the "cone of silence" at Saturday night's presidential candidates' forum at Saddleback Church.

Campaign manager Rick Davis cited Mitchell's comments on NBC's "Meet the Press" about how the Barack Obama campaign said privately that they felt that McCain "may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama. He seemed so well-prepared." Davis denied what he called "a completely unsubstantiated Obama campaign claim that John McCain somehow cheated." McCain was driving to the event and then in a green room without TV, Davis said.

Pastor Rick Warren on Saturday sat down first with Obama and asked him the same questions he would later ask McCain.

In a letter to NBC News president Steve Capus, Davis said that the network's "level of objectivity ... has fallen so low that reporters are now giving voice to ubsubstantiated, partisan claims in order to undercut John McCain." He said he wanted a meeting with Capus to discuss news standards and objectivity.

"We are concerned that your news division is following MSNBC's lead in abandoning nonpartisan coverage of the presidential race," Davis wrote.

In a statement Monday, NBC News said that it welcomed an opportunity to speak with officials from both campaigns and said it is in daily contact with the McCain camp.

"With all due respect to the campaign leadership, they are viewing our coverage through a political prism," NBC News said. "We stand by our reporting, our journalism and our journalists."

It's not the first time that NBC has been the subject of questions during the presidential campaign. MSNBC and NBC News were cited several times during the primary campaign over perceived mistreatment of Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton.
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