On Sunday, Oct. 26, Fox News showed The View‘s Elisabeth Hasselbeck introducing VP candidate Sarah Palin. Hasselbeck emphasized that Palin wears a flag pin for her son, who serves in the military. Palin reached for her lapel and smiled right on cue, as if she were Hasselbeck’s sidekick modeling jewelry on the Home Shopping Network.
That’s fine. But what does the focus on the pin mean for her boss, John McCain, who does not always wear his flag pin? McCain made it clear last October, when he was asked about Barack Obama not wearing a flag pin, that he “doesn’t wear a flag pin on a daily basis.”
Obama soon started to wear a pin after that dust-up. (See LA Times, Breaking News: Obama caves! Flag pin returns to his coat lapel, Apr.16 2008). Case closed? Not a chance. Dem and GOP pin watchers alike cannot give it up.
Later on Oct. 26, there was Fox News again, this time Hannity’s America, flogging the flag pin flap, replaying a 2007 Obama interview – breaking news! – in which he first said he would not wear the flag pin.
|Blogger Mark Nicklas asked, “Where Is McCain’s Flag Pin? “
|Apr 17, 2008, Nicklas wrote:”Since at least March 4th — when McCain secured the Republican presidential nomination — through the present, he has not worn an American flag lapel pin on any of those days. Not one photo shows him doing so.
“Not once since John McCain has become the Republican presidential nominee has he worn an American flag lapel pin. But last night, ABC NEWS asked Barack Obama whether his refusal to do will create ‘a major vulnerability’ in the fall, as the McCain camp asserts.”
Not to be outdone, one web site has assembled a “montage” of press photos of John McCain in the 70 days after he secured the Republican presidential nomination. In none of the more than 1,300 images reviewed between March and May was McCain wearing a flag pin. Yet by the fall, the pin’s absence was still enough of an issue that the Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal reported on Oct. 1 that McCain “did not wear an American flag lapel pin during the debate.”
Dems see McCain’s pinlessness as deep hypocrisy: McCain criticized Obama for not wearing a flag pin, so, we’ll show him! This illogical and uninformed payback continues even though McCain never criticized Obama for not wearing a pin and, despite all the flag talk from both sides, clearly doesn’t make a point of wearing one himself.
The GOP Hasselback is just as vapid as the Dems to have considered Palin’s pin noteworthy when the actual candidate, McCain, consistently campaigns without one.
But the facts don’t seem to get in the way of YouTube videos, such as one titled, “McCain the lying hypocrite.” The opening frame repeats an established falsehood, “McCain says not wearing a flag pin is unpatriotic.”
There is even a “George Bush wears his flag pin, but NOT John McCain!” Apr.24, 2008 post on a blog, aptly titled:, The official post 9/11, ” I’m not wearing a flag pin, so question my patriotism.” Blog address? The URL, of course, is: noflagpin.wordpress.com.
The peak of this ridiculousness occurred in multiple blog posts following the joint appearance of McCain and Obama at Ground Zero during this year’s 9/11 memorial ceremony. One blogger, I reported, went so far as to falsely accuse a photographer of Photoshopping a pin onto McCain’s lapel. I debunked that claim, and he apologized, to his great credit.
McCain didn’t mooch pins during the 9/11 ceremony
However, there was also a mainstream media guy, operating as a blogger, who went even further and accused McCain, not the photographer, of being a flag pin mooch! According to the blogger’s anonymous source, McCain forgot his pin on September 11, 2008. (Horrors!) Yet Obama was wearing one, so McCain cornered a police officer into loaning him his flag pin. He then asked a firefighter to give his wife, Cindy, a pin.
On Sept. 12, John Aravosis wrote on Americablog (emphasis mine):
“Why didn’t McCain wear a flag pin to yesterday’s event commemorating September 11? If you check the photos, he wasn’t wearing one, he wasn’t wearing any pins at all. Obama was. He was wearing an American flag. Once McCain realized what he’d done, I hear he then asked a police officer for his NYPD pin, and put it on, then did the same thing to a fireman (telling him he needed the pin for Cindy).”
(UPDATE 6/30/2017: The video has been removed from YouTube.)
YouTube videos, one titled, “McCain the lying hypocrite,” has an opening frame that features an established falsehood, that “McCain says not wearing a flag pin is unpatriotic.”
I know his anonymous source is wrong because I spoke to the two FDNY employees, EMS Liam Gilanne, who pinned Ms. McCain; and FDNY firefighter Eric Roldan, who pinned Sen.McCain. There was no policeman. The Getty photos showed Gilanne and Roldan putting FDNY 9/11 memorial pins – not flag pins – on the McCains.
I asked Aravois if he was going to correct the record. He posted the following (emphasis mine):
“(UPDATE: I received an email from someone saying that they interviewed the fireman and police officer mentioned below, and they say that they offered McCain their pins, he didn’t request them. If true, and let’s face it, there’d be ample motive for these two people not to publicly criticize future President McCain, I’m not quite sure why it matters to the story. I didn’t cast any aspersions on McCain for supposedly asking for the pins. The thrust of the story is that McCain, the self-described patriot, who mocked Obama as unpatriotic, showed up at a September 11 event without a flag pin on. In Republican circles, that’s a rather large sin – and had Obama done it, he’d have been excoriated by McCain and his minions. Whether or not McCain was offered the pins, or asked for them, doesn’t change the fact that he arrived at the event without a flag, and that was the uncontested point of the story. In the law we call the email complaint I received a nuance without a difference – meaning, even if you’re right, your point is irrelevant to the underlying argument.) ”
So, rather than admit his anonymous source was simply wrong, Aravosis thought it fair to suggest that Gilanne and Roldan lied. (An aside: Look through the photos and ask, where was this mystery source standing that he could hear close talking between the McCains and the two FDNY workers? Could anyone realistically overhear what was said?)
I wrote Aravosis again and said: “If McCain had, in fact, ‘realized what he’d done…then asked a police officer for his NYPD pin, and put it on, then did the same thing to a fireman (telling him he needed the pin for Cindy),’ this would indicate: a. he acknowledges it was a mistake to not wear a pin, and b. that he was trying to cover up the mistake of not wearing a pin, and c. he was rude for asking uniform service people for pins for he and his wife and d. implies, if true, that he is a hypocrite (for covering up) and a dolt (for not remembering to wear a pin that he feels is important). This ‘little’ part of your story offers evidence – the only evidence – to support your general premise that the pin, per se, is important to McCain.”
I also pointed out the ethical violation involved in his use of this dubious anonymous source. I wrote, “Basic tenets in journalism ethics requires revealing why your source is anonymous, and to not use anonymous sources to take shots at others.”
I continued, “I interviewed FDNY EMS worker Liam Gilanne and FDNY firefighter Eric Roldan separately on the telephone and recorded it. I asked them how it came about that they gave the pins. They said the pins were a way they could engage McCain. In this context, they would and could have readily told me if McCain had asked for a pin, as opposed to their offering one, and it would not have been a criticism, per se …
“I had fully expected that you would simply correct your anonymous source’s errors in light of persuasive evidence and that it would be no big deal. I truly hope that you will not publicly impugn the characters of these two innocent men (both identified by name) by suggesting the possibility that they are lying to cover up McCain’s missteps.”
Alas, he never got back to me about his mystery source (despite his promise to “check with my source about the information provided by your sources”). He corrected the error in the correction – that a policeman pinned McCain – without transparency.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, Aravosis’s other flag-pin-wearing-issue post had already sunk this partisian topic to a new low, Apr. 08, with the headline: “Does John McCain require his mistress to wear a flag pin?”
What should I expect from someone who mocked McCain , in the same flag pin article, as a traitor for having made video tape confessions for our enemy’s propaganda (after suffering unspeakable torture during his Viet Nam war imprisonment)? Does being a Dem or GOP ever justify such scale of cruelty? (It is notable that none of his readers protested that such remarks were out-of-bounds).
FDNY EMS worker, Gilanne, and FDNY Firefighter, Roldan talk about the pins!
“Here’s my pin, because I see that you don’t have one,” FDNY Firefighter Roldan, told McCain after giving him the Marine Corp yelp. Roldan, who works in Ceremonial Unit, is a former Marine himself. He continued, “He got a ground zero pin. It’s a World Trade Center ground zero pin.”
“What? After all this flap, no flag pin?” I thought. Regaining my composure, I asked, “What did McCain say when you said he didn’t have a pin? ”
Roldan answered, “He was so grateful, he was, like, ‘ Thank you so much…’ told him I was in the Marines for eight years… He thanked me for everything and he thanked all of us [in FDNY] for everything that we did, for everything that we do every day.”
Roldan then informed me that an EMS worker had offered Ms. McCain a pin, not he. It turned out to be, Liam Gilanne, an older man, who served in EMS for 18 years who gifted her pin. He only recently joined the FDNY Ceremonial unit just over a year ago.
Gilanne said, “I told McCain, ‘Stay focused, you’ve been in tough spots before, you’ll do well soldier, you’ll do well.’ And with that he grabbed my shoulder blades, he reached up as far as he could to grab them. What I said apparently hit a spot there, you know. [laughs] It was nice to see that reaction.”
Gilanne spoke too, with Obama, He said, “But I’ll be honest with you, my dialogue with him, with Barack, was genuine. I’m representing my department at that point, as far as I’m concerned. For crying out loud, I’m representing the city, you know, that’s what’s on my patch and it was cordial, genuine and I thanked him, and I said, you know, still a lot of people hurting here, you know, this will never go away. He agreed, you know.”
No issues about the pin for these men. Now back to the bloggers and media…