August 17th, 2008
07:18 PM ET
12 years ago

Warren: McCain did not violate 'cone of silence'

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[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Warren and McCain camp insist the presumptive Republican nominee had no edge over Obama by going second."](CNN) – Sometimes you just have to take it on faith.

Pastor Rick Warren said John McCain didn’t hear any of the questions in advance at Saturday night’s Civil Forum, even if the candidate was a little late arriving to the pre-arranged quiet room or “cone of silence.”

At the beginning of the forum at California megachurch, Warren told the crowd and TV audience, “I'm going to ask identical questions to each of these candidates, so you can compare apples to apples. Now, Senator Obama is going to go first. We flipped a coin, and we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence.”

But at 8 p.m. ET, as Warren said that, McCain was actually not in the building. He was just leaving his hotel, with his motorcade arriving at the church nearly a half hour into the event. A. Larry Ross, a spokesman for Warren, says McCain then went directly into the holding room they dubbed the “cone of silence” (in reality, a room with no TV or audio).

Some questioned whether that late arrival might have allowed McCain to hear some of the questions being first posed to Obama.

Warren told CNN Sunday evening, “we flat out asked him” if he heard any of the questions. The McCain campaign “confirmed that McCain did not hear or see any of the broadcast” in the motorcade or after he arrived, Ross said.

When asked if McCain overheard anything, Charlie Black, a McCain adviser who was with him at the time, told CNN: "We were in motorcade until 5:30 p.m. ET; then a holding room in another building with no TV."

Warren said, “I trust the integrity of both” candidates, and said he “knew they would abide by the rules.” He joked McCain may not have been in the cone of silence, but “he was in the cone of a Secret Service motorcade”.

Ross says the whole event only came about because of the relationship Warren has with both men. He said they all agreed to assure a “level field, “McCain would not hear the questions or Senator Obama’s answers.” The pastor spoke to each candidate this week, giving the general themes. Warren decided to tell them each the first two questions in advance, about the three wisest people you know, and the biggest moral failings.

For their part, an Obama spokesperson told CNN’s Mike Roselli they are not pursuing whether McCain heard any of the other questions. They say they assuming McCain had the same information they did.

Filed under: Extra • John McCain
soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. EBC

    What? Unnnn-believable.

    Pastor Warren, YOU are an idiot if you think Sen. McCain's staffers DID not feed him the questions. What a crock of CRAP!

    I'm floored in thinking that this Pastor has the nerve to insult our intelligence in thinking that while in "route" to the event, Sen. McCain's staff was NOT listening to Sen. Obama's questions like a "FLY ON THE WALL".

    Can you say Honey PLEEEEEEEEEZE........

    McCain plays deaf and dumb whenever it's convenient for him, but he gave himself away when he would answer the question BEFORE the question is even asked, AND then he ASKED about the Supreme Court Judges BEFORE Pastor Warren even asked the question.

    This just another attempt by the McCain camp to "cheat the system" as usual, it's that "OLD Washington Politics" at work.

    For Pastor Warren to state on CNN today that, "he takes John McCain at his word"..... Yeah okay, wink-wink.

    We are NOT all faith-based "suckers" here.

    August 17, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  2. 1ST Link

    Pastor Rick Warren said John McCain didn’t hear any of the questions in advance at Saturday night’s Civil Forum, even if the candidate was a little late arriving to the pre-arranged quiet room or “cone of silence.”Oh yes he heard some of the Questions I noticed that on some of the questions he answered before Rev finish asking the Question and the sly Fox told stories to eat up the time

    August 17, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  3. Eunice Barnes

    I feel that McCaine did listen to the questions earlier. He answered some of the questions before they were completely asked.

    August 17, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  4. anna

    I am confident that Pastor Rick Warren treated both men fairly in terms of information and access to questions prior to the event.

    He deeply respects both men, and if he calls you friend you can bet on it.
    After all, he has been my Pastor since he first started pastoring out of my high school auditorium.

    August 17, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  5. Barbara

    OK PUMAs – Bush wants to get rid of birth control by making it a form of abortion – no congressional vote on it, just RULE, McCain wants to remove all choices for you regarding how many babies you or your daughters no matter by whom or what the circumstances.

    Your choice PUMA people – This may be the last choice you ever have – you may be too busy in 3 or 4 years tending to a "baby a year". Financially and physically, it will keep you from having a real life of your own, or it may prevent your daughter from education – unless you're married to one of those people making the big bucks.

    August 17, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  6. Alan Boyer

    This just confirms the suspicions of millions of people watching the event.

    It is clear now that the candidates didn't receive the same treatment. More specifically, if you review the transcripts, Warren kept Obama on a leash and gave McCain much more flexibility to sprinkle in stomp comments. It would have been more effective to actually ask the same exact questions to each candidate...word for word, to avoid the appearance of unfairness. The framing of the questions was different.

    It is highly possible that McCain's handlers told him about the initial questions before McCain arrived at the church. Not being in the cone of silence before the event started raises significant questions of fairness or at least presents the appearance of unfairness.

    Also, there is some suggestion that McCain knew the questions in advance or heard Obama's comments because of his reference to going back to the Supreme Court justices before being asked about them and answering the education question before it was asked.

    Finally, there were several opportunities to ask follow up questions of both candidates when their answers seemed confusing. It would have been helpful to ask Obama to elaborate on what he meant by the “above my paid grade” comment. It would also be helpful to ask McCain to explain how the failure of his marriage was a moral failure. A failed marriage in and of itself is not a moral failure. Many marriages fail for other reasons that have nothing to do with, incompatibility, etc.

    A couple of missed questions;

    1. To both: Will you commit to ending the negative campaigning?.
    2. To McCain: Does a reputation for cheating on your spouse disqualify a candidate for the presidency?
    3. To McCain: Does being a POW qualify a candidate for the presidency?
    4. To Obama: Does being a good speaker qualify a candidate for the presidency?
    5. To Obama: Are you a Muslim?

    August 17, 2008 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  7. MIKE


    August 17, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  8. Free Advice to Rick Warren

    Next time, leave no room for monkey business.

    If a candidate is late, just delay the start until they're both arrived.

    And next time, no leaking the first two questions to the candidates before hand. Or if you do so, then in the interest of full disclosure you should say that in the broadcast.

    Having said all that, it's amazing how weak an answer Sen. Obama gave to the "which 3 people" question. Just a very weak answer

    Now knowing that McCain knew that question ahead of time, I'm less impressed with his answer. But at least it was a lot better than Obama's.

    August 17, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  9. Brian

    uh huh, because McCain is so honest. Give me a break.

    August 17, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  10. Tom in Delaware

    I believe we'll be seeing more of this format in the future, if not because it's acceptable to the canidates, then because it's so revealing and informational to the voters.

    Interesting how they knew that the first two questions were coming, yet the answers were so different from the canidates.

    I thought that both of them anwered truthfully (yet painfully) about their greatest moral failings, but thought Barack could have been a little broader on the first one about who the three wisest persons in his life were...anyway, a great forum.

    Well done, Rick Warren.

    August 17, 2008 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  11. AIB

    I have serious doubt about the integrity of Senator McCain and his campaign. His campaign is run by lobbyits whose only goal is to win at all costs. Cheating is nothing to these people. I never saw senator McCain so confident despite the toughness of questions that require some thoughts. He answered many questions before they were asked. But his answers were centered to war and national security. I have just to disregard the forum.

    August 17, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  12. Barbara

    Why does this picture make McWarmonger look taller than he is? Did someone hand him a little stool to stand on? He's shorter than both of the other men. HA HA CNN – you all are not fair and balanced.

    I get my news from National Enquirer – they have THINKING investigative journalists instead of empty air-heads talking (Blitzer, Brown, etc).

    August 17, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Unbelievable that a man of Pastor Warren's standing would tell the audience that McCain was in the "cone of silence" after a flip of the coin when McCain was not even in the building!
    This is not a problem for McCain. It is a problem for Pastor Warren. His credibility is at stake.

    August 17, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  14. Lisa Salt Lake City, Utah

    So why was McCain planning to answer the Supreme Court Judge question but was told by Warren, that question would come later? Why did McCain say "yes, yes, and get bad teachers new jobs" (3 answers to a 3 part question that Warren had not even asked yet, only introduced the section? McCain knew the questions before he got them.

    August 17, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  15. Clinton Supporter Now for McCain!

    If both were given the first two questions in advance then Obama gave two horrible answers. McCain look strong and confident, Obama came off wishy-washy. I know for sure now that I am voting for McCain.

    August 17, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  16. American

    McCain 30-minutes late arriving, huh. then how could they have flipped a coin for who goes first. And who in this country, in their right mind would not think that McCain's camp would resist getting an up on Obama by listening to his interview. Give me a break, Warren. This is so juvenile! Tell the truth...this was a farse!

    August 17, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  17. Cathy

    If the candidates didn't know the questions before hand, how did McCain seem to answer a lot of questions before Pastor Warren even completed that question. Or, why did Obama confess that he cheated and looked into the topic of adoption before the forum.

    It just seems very suspect that boht McCain and Obama's actions showed evidence that they knew the questions. Obama was just more respectful and let Pastor Warren get the whole question out before answering it.

    Either way if they knew the question or not, Obama was 100 times more engaging, real and personable with his responses then McCain. I was really hoping to see another side of both candidates beyond he stump speeches, sound bites and TV ads. I learned nothing new about McCain. With all do respect, McCain just told the same POW stories and stump speech after stump speech, which I've heard 100 times. To McCain is all about War...Surge...Bomb...Defeat...all militant and bullying language. Forget about analyzing, reasoning and diplomacy that to much like being a human being.

    I take that back, I didn't learn something new about McCain...he is worse the Bush and I fear for the future of this country if McCain wins.

    August 17, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  18. John Nail

    "McCain did not hear or see any of the broadcast" – No is a good answer but a true 'lie"

    Next question – "Did any of his staff watch or listen or in any way then brief him with specific questions in person, via phone or electronic device w/ ANY info from the Obama interview before his hour".

    Of course they did. Satellite radio had it, or a WI FI connected laptop or an iPhone would have done email, phone call or blackberry message to a staffer who then whispers in his ear....

    This is going to be a huge scandal.....but not below a guy who nearly flunked out of Annapolis..

    August 17, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  19. Lisa Salt Lake City, Utah

    How did they do a coin toss without McCain being present? What if he was suppose to go first and wasn't there?

    August 17, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  20. jonny

    well we all know it was another right wing hijack just like the ABC Debate

    August 17, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  21. Bill

    McCanned couldn't help himself, but in God we Trust.

    August 17, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  22. A. Thomas-Cramer

    Well, that settles that. If there's one thing McCain, the proteges of Karl Rove running his campaign, and Republicans in general are known for, it's honesty and good sportsmanship during campaigns. We can trust that he didn't listen in while unsupervised, because he *said so.*

    August 17, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  23. Kat

    If Rick Warren thinks that anyone believes that, he must think we are Purpose Driven Morons.

    What a disappointment. I thought Rick Warren was a good guy.

    August 17, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  24. Melissa

    McCain put on such a rehearsed performance last night. It was evident he either had access to the questions or saw Barack's interview ahead of time. McCain is a cheat.

    August 17, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  25. Seth

    Wow. Rick Warren lied. The audience, on TV and in his megajumbosuperchurch should have been informed that McCain was not in isolation. He could have told us all that he had McCain's word that he wasn't listening in on Obama's part of the forum.

    But the pastor clearly presented it as if McCain had indeed been isolated. He lied.

    And the fate of the free world is at stake. If Rick Warren doesn't think that ANY candidate for president would do a little cheating on an interview to get ahead, he's either naive, an idiot, or lying.

    And the same would go for Obama, incidentally. If he and his staff had access to the questions in an interview, they'd do what they could to prepare, too.

    August 17, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
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