09/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

NBC Wrong on McCain/McKinnon Claim

On Monday, "First Read," an online analysis of the day's political news from the NBC News political unit, reported "Per NBC's Kelly O'Donnell" that master media strategist Mark McKinnon, -- who famously stunned the nexus of Big Media and Big Politics when he resigned as John McCain's top media man because he didn't want to work against Barack Obama -- was back working behind the scenes:

"And speaking of the McCain camp, remember when one-time Bush media guru and McCain champion Mark McKinnon decided to step away from the '08 campaign once it became clear Obama would be the Dem nominee? Well, he's back -- sort of. Per NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, McKinnon's helping Cindy McCain with her convention week prep, including a family video. When pressed, the campaign acknowledged that while McKinnon is largely on the strategic sidelines, he does provide occasional advice on the campaign ad efforts."

When asked about O'Donnell's claim that he had reneged on his pledge, McKinnon, whom I met when he was masterminding the Bush-Cheney 2004 winning strategy, responded quickly and bluntly with a correction: "I'm helping Cindy with her speech," McKinnon replied. "That's all. No video. No ads. Nothing else. And nothing beyond that.I think that squares with my pledge. I always said I would remain fan, friend and cheerleader.

And I have not been providing advice on ad efforts. Period."

McKinnon left the McCain campaign in June after saying he would "not be the tip of the spear" attacking Obama in an advertising campaign.

Later in the day, O'Donnell and First Read corrected their initial report - without noting their earlier error:

"NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports on the return of Mark McKinnon to the McCain fold (at least for McCain week). He's helping Cindy McCain with her convention speech, which will occur on the third night of the convention. "Finishing touches" on the speech have been in the works for a couple of weeks. McKinnon describes Cindy McCain as "the best asset (for the campaign) I knew the least about...."

UPDATE: A frustrated-sounded McKinnon later emailed a correction to the NBC 'correction:"

"Well, here are the facts, ROC, so report 'em however you want to.

I have no role at all in the campaign. I'm a simply a fan, a friend and a cheerleader. Since the primaries, I have not discussed any ads or videos with anyone at the campaign until after they've been publicly released.

As a friend, I have simply been acting as a facilitator to help with Cindy's speech. That means helping to identify speechwriters, Mari Will and Lionel Chetwynd, and working with them and Cindy on the speech.

And that's sum total of my participation. And that's where it ends."