Portman: Cunningham crossed the line
Former congressman Rob Portman, who followed radio host Bill Cunningham on stage at the John McCain rally here Tuesday, said that if he could have heard Cunningham's insults from his perch backstage, he might have joined in McCain's on-the-spot repudiation of Cunningham too.
Portman - often mentioned as a potential running mate for McCain, whose candidacy he had endorsed that morning - said he was off-stage at Memorial Hall during Cunningham's 10-minute warm-up act, in which he hurled insults at Obama, the media and Democrats in general.
McCain didn't hear the Cunningham speech either - he was just entering the building as Cunningham spoke. But he was told about it after his speech to the party faithful at Memorial Hall. He marched out to the back of the theater where the local and traveling press were waiting to talk to the candidate.
Without being asked about it, McCain ripped into Cunningham, saying he would not tolerate personal attacks on his opponents. As McCain was talking, Portman was walking up to his side; he had been asked to come before the press to answer any questions about his support for McCain.
"At that point, I still wasn't sure what had been going on,'' Portman said.
Portman said he learned later what Cunningham had said.
"It was not only inappropriate in a presidential campaign; it is the kind of stuff that is not helpful to a presidential campaign,'' Portman said.
"Making fun of someone's name is not right for grade school election, or even a high school election, and certainly not in a presidential campaign,'' Portman said.
Cunningham has served an emcee or a warm-up act at countless republican rallies and fundraisers over the years. But Portman, who may run for Ohio governor in 2010, pointed out that he has never had Cunningham at one of his campaign events.