5

Whitman stages townhall rally

Steve Poizner’s campaign came up with yet more boffo video of Meg Whitman — this time staging a townhall meeting Wednesday night in Orange County, apparently for a future campaign ad.

A Poizner plant with a video flip cam captured Whitman asking the crowd for applause — “lots of cheering would be good,” she implored — and the emcee asking the audience to re-ask questions so Whitman could re-answer them.

“The video is meant to portray that Meg Whitman can answer questions, but it’s all a sham,” said Jarrod Agen, Poizner’s spokesman. “People are pre-screened, questions are planted. If Meg didn’t like her answer, they were forced to re-ask them. The whole episode is further proof that Meg can’t handle live events.”

Whitman’s spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said that the campaign indeed was filming for a 30-minute campaign ad, where invited supporters were told that “the proceedings would be filmed.”

“It was a commercial shoot — that’s what commercials do,” Pompei said when asked why Whitman was staging a townhall meeting.

I pressed Pompei further on why the Whitman campaign would want to convey the impression of Whitman spontaneously answering tough questions and of the crowd spontaneously cheering. Pompei simply repeated her answer, that it was a commercial shoot.

Suffice it to say that the Poizner plant — an Orange County volunteer who’d received a ticket to the event — was booted.

So was a “tracker” for the Democratic independent expenditure committee, California Accountability Project, Jeremy Thompson — and he hadn’t even pulled his camera out yet. He was actually forcibly removed by security, according to Nick Velasquez, the director of the group, and told by the Santa Ana police department that he would be arrested if he tried to return to the event.

Velasquez is asking for apologies. Pompei isn’t talking on the record about the incident, though she called Thompson a “rabble rouser paid by our opponents. He has no credibility.” All this coming only a couple days after Whitman made national news for refusing — through a wide grin —┬áto answer reporters’ questions at an event she invited them to.

Steven Harmon