McCain-Palin Campaign Snubs Penn State Prez

Campaign disputes aide called president a "big Democrat."

ByABC News
October 29, 2008, 7:32 PM

October 30, 2008— -- A McCain-Palin campaign official snubbed the president of Penn State University who inquired about attending a campus speech Tuesday by Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, university officials told

"He's a big Democrat. Why would he want to meet Palin?" campaign aide Russell Bermel allegedly asked a school employee who was hoping to make arrangements for president Graham B. Spanier to meet Palin, according to Spanier's office.

Spokespeople for the McCain-Palin campaign said Wednesday they could not locate Bermel and would not make him available for comment. On Thursday, a spokesman contacted ABC News and said they had reached Bermel, who flatly denied the account. The campaign did not make Bermel available for an interview.

The McCain-Palin campaign has been working overtime to become competitive in Pennsylvania, where the Obama-Biden campaign has enjoyed a double-digit lead in the polls.

Some might say that makes it an odd time to snub the president of the state's largest university. The school enrolls 40,000 students and counts a quarter-million alumni living in Pennsylvania alone.

"I welcome eminent visitors to our campus everyday, including lots of Republicans, but [the McCain-Palin campaign] didn't want me to greet her or even attend the event," said Spanier.

Gov. Palin spoke Tuesday night before about 7,000 people at a "closed" event at the school's Rec Hall that was open only to people invited by the campaign.

Under university policy, candidates who open their appearances to all students and members of the public are allowed free use of university halls, other than incidental costs.

Because it was a "closed" event, with tickets controlled by the Republican party and the campaign, the university charged the campaign $8,000 for use of the hall, according to Penn State vice-president Bill Mahon.

"It was a decision made by a campaign advance staff member," said Mahon. "We were told that president Spanier could not come."

"My guess is this is just a young campaigner," added Mahon. "Certianly Gov. Palin would not be aware of this."