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.
Leesa Moore Craigie
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.