Campaigns Rally Against Wrong T-Shirts

ByABC News via GMA logo
November 1, 2004, 6:12 AM

NEW YORK, Nov. 1, 2004 -- -- Behind the scenes of one of the most contentious presidential races in recent memory, both Democrats and Republicans have organized what can only be called the T-shirt defense squads.

It is an all-out effort to spot T-shirts supporting the other candidate and block them from view, or in some cases to actually have the T-shirt-wearing offenders ejected or arrested.

ABC News conducted a bipartisan experiment in which producers and volunteers went to rallies for each candidate wearing the other party's T-shirt, and found that each campaign had its own methods of preventing the shirts from being seen.

"We've reached a sad state of affairs when a T-shirt is that offensive," said Yale professor Robert Post, a specialist in First Amendment law. "It tells me that these are photo opportunities, and not about dialogue."

The rules were to behave exactly the same at each rally, to be polite participants and to leave when asked. The ABC News team obtained tickets for all of the events attended -- tickets for Kerry events can be attained from the official campaign Web site and tickets for Bush events from local Republican party or campaign offices.

At an Oct. 21 Kerry rally in Minneapolis, ABC news producers were surrounded and followed by a team of dancing Kerry campaign workers with large signs, effectively obstructing the Bush-Cheney T-shirts from the view of the national press.

"My job tonight was to run interference so that we didn't have any negative situation on our hands," said a female Kerry campaign volunteer. "Our job was to stand in front of them and make sure that, number one, that press had access to Kerry stuff and not necessarily Bush."

The Bush campaign was even more aggressive in its response to the opposing party's T-shirts.

When ABC News volunteers Matt Walter and Sherrie Varpula tried to attend an Oct. 23 Bush rally at Space Coast Stadium in Melbourne, Fla., they were told by event volunteers the Kerry-Edwards T-shirts they were wearing would cause them not to be admitted.