EDITORIAL: Iowa media scared of challenging the status quo in political debates

Iowa gubernatorial candidates Kim Reynolds, Fred Hubbell and Jake Porter
Iowa gubernatorial candidates Kim Reynolds, Fred Hubbell and Jake Porter.

Being a third party has its own challenges. A clear example is the Libertarian and the fight for ballot access and major party status that has been going on since its inception in 1971.

As a result of the 2016 presidential election, Libertarian affiliates in 42 states earned major or recognized status, as well as reduced ballot access thresholds. Iowa just happened to be one of these states, holding their first-ever Libertarian caucus earlier this year, with Jake “J.D.” Porter earning the nod to represent the top of the Libertarian ticket in the state’s gubernatorial election.

Our editorial board strongly believes that if you earned your party’s nomination via primary, caucus or convention and have met the conditions which secures your ballot access (e.g. submitting the required petition signatures for a primary or general election), then you should automatically be allowed on the debate stage.

Not the case with the first gubernatorial debate being held October 10 on the CBS affiliate in Des Moines, KCCI. Republican incumbent Kim Reynolds and Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell have been invited while Porter has been excluded. KCCI is a party to voter suppression with the refusal to allow all three major party nominees to speak on one debate stage.

Props to Libertarian Party of Iowa chairman Joseph Howe on calling the station out on their hypocrisy and that of corporate parents Hearst Television. Props to Porter as well for refusing to remain silent over the exclusion. He has even organized a peaceful protest to take place during the debate.

News groups within the state have been dodging questions regarding Porter’s debate exclusion, which would prompt attacks from KCCI management as well as other members of the media.

KCCI’s editorial only proves that they and Hearst are nothing more than biased hacks. A selection from their awful excuse as to why Porter cannot and will not be included:

In one published report, the chairman of the Iowa Libertarian Party went so far as to suggest that corporate owners of stations like KCCI are developing criteria for us to use to inform our decision.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Here at KCCI, for as long as we’ve done debates, the decision has always been local.

And we’ve always relied on various, readily available, objective criteria to help with our determination. No doubt these decisions are challenging.

But by any objective data available, whether registered voters, votes garnered in the primary or fundraising, the newsworthy debate — the debate we think best helps the electorate make a decision this fall — is between Fred Hubbell and Kim Reynolds.

Let’s bust the logical fallacies KCCI is pushing:

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KCCI alleges that Howe suggested that Hearst developed criteria for the station to make their decision. Well, Howe isn’t exactly wrong here. I’ll explain in more detail for the next response, since KCCI claims their decisions are always local.

KCCI alleges that their debate decisions have always been local. That is absolutely false. Let’s just use the neighboring states of Illinois and Missouri and the media for both states for an example.

The common majority owners of media in both states are Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Broadcasting. Other majority media owners in Missouri also include Meredith Corporation and TEGNA Inc. Other majority media owners in Illinois include Quincy Media Group and CBS Corporation, NBCUniversal and Disney for their respective Chicago market stations.

One group who owns stations in Illinois has a common thread with Texas. Nexstar Media Group, which owns four stations in Illinois, is the same group that excluded Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Mark Tippetts from a debate one of their stations held.

For KCCI to claim that they or no other media group sets ridiculous criteria for debate inclusion, they are seriously mistaken.

They focus more on arbitrary, meaningless things like polls and I guess these stations didn’t learn their lesson when polls showed that Hillary Rodham Clinton was going to win the presidency in 2016, but Donald Trump scored a victory via the electoral college, because the popular vote doesn’t matter. Why do you keep relying on this garbage when none of these polls are scientific, nor are they valid?

But we can’t just blame the media. Groups that organize these debates set ridiculous thresholds that are often impossible to reach. While the NBC Chicago/Telemundo debate didn’t require much in criteria for the first gubernatorial debate/forum in which Libertarian candidate Kash Jackson and Conservative candidate Sen. Sam McCann were invited to appear this past Thursday, the ABC Chicago/Telemundo debate sponsored by the Illinois League of Women Voters have set a suppression on voter choice, requiring candidates to poll at 10% or higher. For one, there are no polls taking place, with the exception of a grossly biased poll from Public Policy Polling, which asked their poll questions excluding Jackson and McCann. So, essentially sabotage from a Democrat-biased polling group.

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KCCI alleges they have always relied on various, readily available, objective criteria to help with their determinations. From what exactly? Are you basing this off of the questionable reliability of polls, false news stories from your TV, radio and newspaper? Do you already have some sort of political bias, whether it’s toward Reynolds or Hubbell, one of which is telling to media to blacklist Porter from all three debates and the other who wants to debate Porter, but has yet to back that promise?

Holy shit — aren’t the shining example of hypocrisy?

KCCI alleges with the above that through theobjective data available, whether registered voters, votes garnered in the primary or fundraising, the newsworthy debate — the debate we think best helps the electorate make a decision this fall — is between Fred Hubbell and Kim Reynolds.” Ummm…..no, it’s not. You base that assumption off of a plethora of logical fallacies. You automatically assume because of fundraising that it’s a two-person race. It’s not. No, Reynolds and Hubbell did not earn their places on the debate stage. They bought those positions for how many million? We see nothing public as to the campaign financials on Ballotpedia.

At least those of us in Illinois know how much JB Pritzker and Bruce Rauner spent to buy their places on the debate stage last week — a disgusting combined sum of over $200 million.

For the electorate — in any state — to be fully informed, all candidates who earned their way to the general election — Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Constitution, Reform or whatever additional parties — should be allowed to participate in debates without any ridiculous restraints such as what KCCI has done to Porter, WICS did to U.S. Senate candidates Kenton McMillen (Libertarian) and Scott Summers (Green) in 2016 and what debate organizers have done all over the country to alternative candidates for years.

Being Libertarian content producer Nicholas Veser presented an excellent commentary Friday night as to what happens when Libertarians are allowed on the debate stage:

Maybe the Iowa media can take some pointers from the Phoenix mayoral debate or the Illinois gubernatorial debate and offer a voice to ALL ballot-qualified candidates.

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Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network and a contributing writer for My Sports Vote, Ambush Sports and Midwest Sports Network. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dogs Sparky and Buster.

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