Palin's first press conference -- sort of

During an impromptu chat with reporters on her campaign plane, Sarah Palin attacks Barack Obama's association with Bill Ayers again.

Published October 8, 2008 4:15PM (EDT)

Until Tuesday, Sarah Palin had not held a press conference since John McCain named her as his running mate. This led some in the media, the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan foremost among them, to demand that the press ignore her until she submitted to a formal press conference.

Now the long wait is finally over. Kind of. During a flight from Pensacola, Fla., to Greenville, N.C., on Tuesday, Palin made her first appearance in the back of her charter plane, where the press sits. Though no one was allowed to film the event, Palin, accompanied by a cadre of senior campaign aides, greeted reporters, shook hands and, according to the New York Times, frequently said, "Nice to meet you!" During the 15-minute question-and-answer session that ensued, she continued to hammer Barack Obama over his tenuous connection to former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers. Asked whether Ayers has anything to do with the campaign, Palin replied with a convoluted answer:

It is pertinent, it's important because when you consider Barack Obama's reaction to and explanation to his association there, and without him being clear at all on what he knew and when he knew it, that I think kinda peeks into his ability to tell us the truth on, not only on association but perhaps other things also. So, it's relevant, I believe, and I brought it up in response to the New York Times article having been printed recently, and I think it just makes us ask the question that, if there's not forthrightness there, with that association and what was known and when it was known, does that lead us to ask, is there forthrightness with the plans Barack Obama has or say tax cuts, or spending increases, makes us question judgment. And I think it's fair and relevant.

Of course, the New York Times article Palin mentions points out that Obama and Ayers "do not appear to have been close" and adds, "Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called 'somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.'"

Asked whether she was insinuating that Obama was dishonest, Palin said:

I'm not saying that he is dishonest, but in terms of judgment and in terms of being able to answer a question forthrightly it has -- it has two different parts to it's that judgment and that truthfulness and just being able to answer very candidly a simple question about 'When did you know him, how did you know him? Is there still -- has there been an association with him since '02 and '05?' We've heard a couple of different stories. I think it is relevant.

Somewhat inevitably, Palin was also asked about Tina Fey's "Saturday Night Live" impersonations of the governor and whether she would like to portray Fey on the show. Palin responded, "I would love to. I would love to. I love her. She's a hoot and she's so talented and it would be fun to either imitate her or keep on giving her more material and keep her in business." After Palin's poor interviews with Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson, that last line can't please many Republicans.

Obviously, the way Palin performed in those interviews is a concern for Republicans, so it's not surprising that the McCain camp still seems very hesitant to throw her to the wolves in a real press conference. Below, via ThinkProgress, is a video of spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace trying to duck questions about whether any such event will occur.

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama John Mccain R-ariz. Sarah Palin