Palin questioner rejects ‘gotcha journalism’ charge

The Philadelphia man who asked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin about Pakistan on Saturday has told The Hill that GOP presidential nominee John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE and Palin mischaracterized the exchange in a primetime interview. 

A clip of Philadelphia resident Michael Rovito’s encounter with Palin quickly caused a stir. It showed Palin saying the U.S. should “absolutely” strike terrorist targets in Pakistan, a stance publicly shared by Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama marks MLK Day by honoring King for his 'poetic brilliance' and 'moral clarity' Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina National Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo MORE (Ill.) and criticized by Sen. McCain (Ariz.).

The media also seized on the clip because it was a rare unscripted moment for Palin, who has been shielded from taking questions from reporters since being picked as McCain’s running mate.

Seeking to quell any notions of being at odds with the Arizona senator, Palin on Monday implied in an interview with CBS’s Katie Couric that she could not hear Rovito’s question completely and that criticism over the comment resulted from “gotcha journalism.”

However, Rovito, who supports Obama in the presidential election, told The Hill that the Alaska governor could hear him just fine, and that the label of “gotcha journalism” doesn’t fit.

“She heard me,” Rovito said. “She looked me right in the eye.”

The exchange happened Saturday on a sidewalk outside a Philadelphia cheesesteak stand.

According to Palin and McCain, who also sat in on Couric’s joint interview Monday, the environment was hectic and Palin may not have heard Rovito clearly.

“In the context, this was a voter, a constituent, hollering out a question from across an area asking, ‘What are you going do about Pakistan? You better have an answer to Pakistan,’ ” Palin said. “I said, ‘We're going do what we have to do to protect the United States of America.' ”

According to Rovito, that's not the case.

“It’s just ridiculous how they’re saying I was hollering,” Rovito said, asserting that Palin was “maybe three feet in front of me, four feet maybe.”

“She knew what I was saying to her,” Rovito stated. “We were standing on the street and a truck drives by. That’s about as loud as it got.”

He added that it was a “totally normal conversation.”

A tape of the exchange, captured by CNN, shows a crowd of people around Palin and Rovito, the two standing several feet apart.

“So would we do cross-border, like from Afghanistan to Pakistan, do you think?” Rovito asks Palin. The tape does not show the first part of his question.

“If that’s what we have to do to stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely,” Palin responds.

As far as claims that reports of the exchange were instances of "gotcha journalism," Rovito doesn’t agree with that, either.

“I am far from a journalist, believe me,” Rovito, a 28-year-old Temple University Ph.D. student, said when asked what he thought of the claim. “Even if I was a 'gotcha' journalist, whatever that may be, you’d think that she’d be prepped.”

McCain had suggested that Palin's “absolutely” response was taken by reporters as an out-of-context sound bite and does not reflect Palin’s stance on Pakistan.

“I understand, this day and age, 'gotcha' journalism,” McCain told Couric on Monday. "Was that a pizza place? In a conversation with someone who you didn't hear the question very well, you don't know the context of the conversation, grab a phrase. Gov. Palin and I agree that you don't announce you're going to attack another country.

“That was a 'gotcha' sound bite,” McCain said.

Asked by Couric what she had learned from the experience of catching heat for the comment, Palin, too, referenced the idea of questionable journalistic tactics.

“This is all about 'gotcha' journalism — a lot of it is. But that’s OK too,” Palin told Couric. Palin was a journalism major at the University of Idaho.

McCain has criticized Obama for publicly stating that he would launch attacks on terrorist targets in Pakistan with or without the Pakistani government's approval if Pakistan itself failed to act. McCain has held that such a policy is sensitive, and whether or not a presidential candidate adheres to it, it's not something that should be advertised in debates or on the campaign trail.

Rovito says he will vote for Obama, but that he would have asked the same question of all four presidential and vice presidential candidates.