NBC BATTLES TO KEEP KUCINICH OUT OF THE DEBATE...
By John Nichols
Nation (web site)
January 15, 2008
Some principles are worth fighting for: like the cherished right of television networks to decide who is and who is not a legitimate candidate for president.
NBC Universal Inc. is a major media conglomerate. And major media conglomerates have traditionally been able to police the parameters of presidential politics. Any affront to this order of affairs is a threat to the ability of corporations to define the American discourse.
That's what is at stake as NBC fights to limit the amount of information Nevada Democrats have available to them before they caucuses on Saturday to choose delegates to the Democratic National Convention. So the network has announced that its crack legal team will work through the night to overturn a judge's order that Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich be included in the last pre-caucus debate between the Democratic presidential contenders.
On the day after the New Hampshire primary, when New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was still in the race, Kucinich, Richardson, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards were invited to participate in the debate scheduled to be televised on MSNBC from 9 to 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Debate organizers wanted Richardson in the forum and knew that they could not exclude Kucinich, who was running ahead of the New Mexican in several national polls. So they grudgingly contacted the Kucinich campaign, which participated last week in initial planning discussions for the debate.
But when Richardson dropped out of the race on Thursday, the network yanked the invitation to Kucinich, who has stirred up past forums -- and distinguished himself from Clinton, Obama, and Edwards -- by calling for the rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, advocating for the impeachment of members of the Bush administration, and even discussing the damage done to the political process by media monopolies.
The Kucinich campaign sued NBC over the network's decision to conduct a closed debate. And Senior Clark County District Court Judge Charles Thompson ruled Monday that the congressman must be allowed to participate. Arguing that Nevada voters -- and, by extension, the Democratic nominating process in which they are playing a high-profile role -- would benefit by hearing from more than just NBC-favored contenders Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, Judge Thompson said, "I don't think that just deciding that just three is good enough for the state of Nevada is a legitimate basis (for dropping Kucinich)."
"Had it been established at the beginning that they'll only take the top three for the debates, I wouldn't have any problem enforcing it," the judge explained to NBC's lawyers. "I'm somewhat offended that a legitimate candidate was invited to a debate and then uninvited under circumstances that appear to be that they just decided to exclude him."
How offended? Judge Thompson told the network's lawyers that any move to exclude Kucinich would lead him to issue an injunction to stop the televised debate.
This threat to its ability to police the discourse was an affront that NBC would not let stand. "We disagree with the judge's decision and are filing an appeal," declared Jeremy Gaines, a vice president for MSNBC, who announced that the cable channel's parent network would demand an immediate hearing before the Nevada Supreme Court.
Kucinich's lawyers will battle to preserve Judge Thompson's ruling, and the candidate's right to a participate in the forum. They have fewer resources, but are possessed of a resource the network lacks: an understanding that democracy is best served by free and open debate.
NBC VOWS TO APPEAL TO KEEP KUCINICH OUT OF DEBATE
January 15, 2008
LAS VEGAS -- NBC News says it will appeal a judge's ruling rather than include Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich in a candidates' debate in Nevada.
A vice president for MSNBC says the parent network will seek an immediate hearing before the Nevada Supreme Court.
Earlier Monday, a judge ruled that Kucinich must be allowed to participate. He said Nevada voters will benefit if they hear from more than just the three front-runners.
If Kucinich is excluded, the judge said he would issue an injunction to stop the televised debate.
Kucinich's lawyer had argued that MSNBC at first invited him to participate, then last week reversed course and told him he could not.
A lawyer for the network said MSNBC decided to go with the top three candidates, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards, after the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries.
NBC TO APPEAL JUDGE'S RULING PUTTING KUCINICH IN NV DEBATE
January 14, 2008
LAS VEGAS -- NBC News said it'll appeal a judge's ruling rather than include Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich in a candidates' debate tomorrow (Tuesday) in Nevada.
That's after Senior Clark County District Court Judge Charles Thompson sided with a lawyer for the Ohio congressman who who says Kucinich was invited to take part in the debate and then told last week he'd been cut from the lineup.
The judge is due to sign an order tomorrow (Tuesday) morning making his ruling official.
When he does, expect NBC Universal Inc. to seek an emergency hearing before the Nevada Supreme Court.
The cable news network and the Democratic party have billed the 6 p.m. debate as a chance for Nevada's minority communities to pose questions to three front-runners -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards.