Free & Equal condemns non-inclusive Chicago mayoral debate

Press release sent to contact.ipr@gmail.com:

The Free and Equal Elections Foundation issued a statement today condemning WLS ABC Channel 7’s decision to hold a non-inclusive Chicago mayoral debate on February 17, 2011. WLS included only selected candidates, intentionally excluding other legally qualified candidates.

“WLS ABC Channel 7 should follow the example set by WFLD Fox Channel 32, which during the gubernatorial race hosted a truly inclusive debate, including all six candidates,” said Christina Tobin, Founder and Chair of the Free and Equal Elections Foundation.

Free & Equal also criticized WTTW Channel 11, which is facing a half-million dollar lawsuit as a result of holding a similar non-inclusive gubernatorial debate in 2010. Rich Whitney, candidate for governor, and LeAlan Jones, candidate for US Senator, were excluded from debates broadcast by WTTW last fall, after repeated requests for inclusion were denied.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds and oversees the programming at WTTW and is a defendant, along with Daniel Schmidt, WTTW’s CEO. The lawsuit alleges that by selecting certain candidates and giving them free air time, they were engaged in partisan political activity, in violation of the IRS tax code and FCC regulations.

“As a licensed broadcaster, WLS has an obligation to operate in the public interest. They abrogate this responsibility by limiting the debate to exclude ballot qualified candidates,” said Tobin.

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