Thursday, August 28, 2008

Separate Can Never Be Equal

Let us begin with following poll result, just to establish the baseline. This is from Public Policy Polling, January 2008, just before the Debate televised by WRAL here in Raleigh.

Pat McCrory 18
Fred Smith 16
Bill Graham 13
Bob Orr 8
Elbie Powers 2

Did Bob Orr get invited to the Debate, on January 17? Yes, he did. Polling at 8%.

Now, the email that WRAL sends out, generically, to anyone who asks why I am not included in the Debate coming up:
Dear [NAME] -
Thank you for your feedback regarding the candidates participating in our gubernatorial Debate on September 9. At WRAL, we believe that issues are at the heart of our political process and we give careful consideration to all of our election coverage. Our threshold for inclusion in the debate is that a candidate should have 10% support among likely voters in a WRAL News poll or another poll conducted by an independent entity. Currently, Mr. Munger, the Libertarian candidate, does not meet that threshold and therefore, will not participate in the debate.

However, Mr. Munger will be invited to participate in other platforms which will give his views and positions exposure. He currently has a candidate profile on WRAL.com and he will be invited to record an issue-message for voters to view on demand on our website. Other coverage will be afforded as we draw closer to Election Day.
Best regards,
Leesa Moore Craigie
WRAL News


Now, the press release that went out as my response:


RALEIGH (Aug. 28) -- WRAL TV's exclusion of the Libertarian candidate for governor from their September 9 debate amounts to a "separate but equal" policy, said Dr. Mike Munger, Libertarian candidate for governor.

The station has refused to include Dr. Munger in the debate, citing their policy of only including candidates who poll at least 10 percent.

Further, on January 17 the station sponsored a gubernatorial primary debate in which one candidate, Robert Orr, was then polling at less than 10 percent.

"So, the policy is applied arbitrarily and is simply something concocted to restrict voter access to information," charged Dr. Munger.

WRAL did invite Dr. Munger to tape a half-hour interview, which they said might be made available on their web site, as a substitute for full participation in the televised debate.

In reply to the e-mail invitation from Ms. Leesa M. Craigie, WRAL operations manager, Dr. Munger cited a 1950 civil rights case, Sweatt v. Painter. Heman Sweatt, an African-American, applied to the University of Texas Law School, but was told a "separate accommodation" would be made for him.

"This was one room, over a pool hall, with some law books," said Dr. Munger. "The State of Texas cared so much about keeping blacks out of their school that they swore, under oath, that this one-room law school was just as good as the main UT Law School, one of the best in the nation."

Sweatt rejected the alternative. "There is now a gym named after him on the UT campus," Dr. Munger noted.

"You seem to think that you are doing me a favor by offering me the equivalent of one room over a pool hall, when by any standard my application for participation in the debate deserves your full consideration," Munger wrote to Craigie.

As a media company that affects to care about the public good, WRAL should not make decisions that clearly protect the entrenched interests of the political duopoly that controls this state, said Munger. "More than 100,000 North Carolinians signed petitions to ensure that they got to exercise a real choice in November. But you are denying it to them."

Dr. Munger has testified before the U.S. Senate, been the President of an international academic society, and director of the master of public administration program at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has been chair of political science department at Duke University for nearly a decade.

"I'll not be bought off by your insulting 'one-room-over-a-pool hall' offer," he said. "I am a qualified candidate. I should be in the debate."


UPDATE: Apparently one version of this release contained an error, saying that there were THREE candidates below 10%. Mea culpa. There was only one. I don't see how that makes much difference, but that has been the amusingly Jesuitical response from Jesse Helms' old TV home, WRAL.

11 comments:

Jeff H. said...

I live in SC, but I sent in this letter to WRAL anyway.

"I was disappointed to hear of WRAL's decision to exclude Mike Munger, the Libertarian candidate for governor, from your September 9th debate.

Over 100,000 North Carolinians signed a petition to put Dr. Munger on the the ballot, demonstrating his viability as a candidate and the desire of North Carolina's voters for another choice come November. To deny the public the right to hear his voice in the debate is to ignore your own viewers and to fail in your role of informing the electorate for the better functioning of democracy.

WRAL should stop this nonsense and perform its duty to North Carolina by including Dr. Munger in the Sept. 9th debate immediately."

Best of luck in the campaign. It almost makes me wish I lived in North Carolina.

Almost.

Jeff H. said...

Also Mike, I had to laugh looking at this official photo of you on your campaign site:

http://www.munger08.com/sites/default/files/ClrDeskMM.JPG

The David Ricardo volumes serve clearly as a subtle signal of your erudition and ideology, but I'm not sure what to take of the fact that the document--which you were apparently inspecting soberly before being interrupted by the photographer--is a limited warranty from Jiffy Lube!

Anonymous said...

Their response is pretty funny. They need to have "some" criteria, so a polling # is as good as any. They would be on better grounds to base it on eye color, at least then it has nothing to do with politics.

Maybe you should take a look at the margin of error for the polls. Perhaps you are within 10% when factoring in the MOE.

Since WRAL is given a license to broadcast on public airwaves by the FCC, they have a legal obligation to broadcast for the public benefit. Not sure if it would help, but you could make a complaint to the FCC.

You may also have a case that WRAL is in effect making a political donation to the candidates that are invited (and show up)to the debates, depending on what the state law says.

Shawn said...

jeff, that's an awesome find. and, i'm sure, subtle tongue-in-cheek humor.

I'm also willing to bet (read: positive) that the blurry "pen" in the foreground is a Wacom tablet pen, which normally wouldn't be on the front of a desk, as it's a graphic design pen used to write on computer tablets, not paper.

Mungowitz said...

Pink slips. I was going for the metaphor of "Pink Slips."

Because that is my comparative advantage, as Gov.

And, THAT explains the Ricardo.

In some versions of the photo, you can also see a hand holding the flag. A PERFECT government job: What do YOU do? Oh, I hold the flag in the gov's office.

Joy said...

You can be certain that if Munger was polling at 10% the criteria would become 15%. It is obviously an undeclared campaign contribution to the two dominant political parties in this state. Has WRAL ever once reported about how the Democrats and the Republicans have colluded to exclude third parties from the political process? Probably not because then they would have to report how they aid and abet in this exclusion.

br said...

Not only should they include you. They should give you free bus fare to the debate.

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