Monday night at 11 p.m., CNN Political Director Sam Feist e-mailed the Alan Keyes campaign to inform the campaign — for the first time — that Ambassador Keyes would not be included in the CNN/YouTube/Republican Party of Florida Debate, scheduled for Wednesday evening.
Prior to this notice, the campaign had received no word from the debate's sponsors about their intentions, one way or the other, to include Dr. Keyes, despite several inquires. The most the campaign was able to learn was that the decision was "ultimately up to CNN."
In the meantime, the campaign contacted numerous Florida party, state, and national leaders, encouraging them to ask CNN to include Ambassador Keyes in Wednesday's debate, so that all nine of the presidential candidates selected by the state for its primary ballot might be scrutinized by voters — instead of just eight.
To no avail.
For reasons evident below, CNN's decision to exclude Dr. Keyes is obviously arbitrary, unfair, and presumptuous — overriding, in essence, the prerogative of the State of Florida to decide which presidential contenders voters have a right to learn about.
The effect of this decision by CNN is far-reaching. Any candidate who does not appear in this nationally-televised debate — the last one scheduled before the primaries — will have little chance of compensating for the damage done to his campaign in the public mind. Note that Ambassador Keyes has already been excluded from two previous national debates on dubious grounds, and as a result, most people are not even aware he is running for president.
Excluding Dr. Keyes from Wednesday's debate will arguably do irreparable damage to his campaign — a result that can hardly have escaped CNN. CNN is playing "gate-keeper," and that is not a legitimate role of the media, no matter how much influence they seek to exert in the political arena.
Read the following exchange, and if you believe an indefensible injustice is about to occur, contact the following executives at CNN and encourage them to reverse their decision to exclude Alan Keyes.
Jonathan Klein, President
Rick Davis, Executive Vice President of News Standards and Practices
Mitch Gelman, Senior Vice President and Executive Producer
Sam Feist, Political Director
Laurel Chamberlain, Media Relations Manager
Lou Dobbs, Anchor and Managing Editor
David Doss, Executive Producer
Wendy Whitworth, Senior Executive Producer of "Larry King Live"
To clarify — for legal purposes — the criteria established by CNN and YouTube for excluding Alan Keyes from Wednesday's debate, please provide the following information, so the Keyes campaign and its attorneys might assess its validity:
- Exactly which published FEC guidelines do you have reference to in support of CNN and YouTube's "objective criteria" for excluding Ambassador Keyes? Please cite the publication and page where specific guidelines for televised debates are clearly made public knowledge by the FEC.
- What is the "minimum national polling requirement" established by CNN and YouTube that Ambassador Keyes fails to meet, and what evidence do you have that Ambassador Keyes fails to meet this requirement? Please supply polls that reliably assess Dr. Keyes' actual support among registered Republican voters. To be reliable, these polls must include Dr. Keyes' name and give respondents the choice of expressing their support for him, alongside other candidates listed.
- What evidence do you have of the actual amount of "individual contributions" raised to date by the Keyes campaign, upon which CNN and YouTube based their decision to exclude Dr. Keyes? Please describe the factual basis for identifying this amount, since we have never publicly released this confidential information, and explain how CNN and YouTube acquired it.
- Based on entirely objective, proven criteria — not subjective, speculative, or theoretical considerations — what is the definition used by CNN and YouTube to define a "viable national campaign." Note that this definition must apply equally to a grassroots campaign of the sort Dr. Keyes has undertaken in the past, as opposed to a media-based, high-cost campaign typically undertaken by candidates whose goal is to shape public opinion. In other words, to be valid, the criteria can neither favor, nor exclude, either traditional approach.
- Besides the criteria cited in your e-mail, what other possible basis might CNN and YouTube have for demonstrably damaging the campaign of a presidential candidate certified by the State of Florida as equal in credibility to the other candidates the state has chosen for its primary ballot? In other words, what possible reason does CNN or YouTube have to prevent Florida voters from making an informed choice among all the Republican candidates hand-selected by the State of Florida for its presidential primary?
- How do CNN and YouTube intend to dispel the obvious appearance that their exclusion of Ambassador Keyes from the debate does in fact amount to an attempt to damage the Keyes campaign? In other words, explain why the behavior of CNN and YouTube is not intentionally self-fulfilling — since it presumes in advance that the Keyes campaign lacks viability, and then proceeds to ensure such lack of viability by excluding Dr. Keyes from the nation's consciousness — even though he is the most eloquent and persuasive Republican candidate in the race, a candidate who in 2000 was widely credited with winning the Republican presidential debates and came in third in the primaries, and whose candidacy, therefore, cannot objectively be considered less than viable.
- Since the lawful role of the media in the electoral process is limited to reporting, influencing, and monitoring that process, by what legitimate means did CNN and YouTube obtain the undemocratic authority to screen from the electoral process a candidate officially chosen by the State of Florida for its presidential primary? In other words, explain to America's voters how CNN and YouTube (and other media or internet giants) have acquired the role of ultimate arbiters in the electoral process. Explain, additionally, how such media control of that process is healthy for America's representative political system.
- Why did CNN wait until there was barely a day left prior to the debate before responding to my inquiry about CNN's intentions regarding the participation of Alan Keyes — and why was CNN and YouTube's basis for excluding him not made known to the Keyes campaign until this late date, eliminating any possibility of including him — if it was in fact the intention of CNN and YouTube to be "objective" and fair toward Ambassador Keyes? Surely, you realize that by utterly ignoring Dr. Keyes until now — and then singling him out for exclusion from the debate despite the fact that the latest Mason-Dixon Florida poll lists him ahead of Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, and Tom Tancredo — CNN and YouTube have destroyed any claim they might make of objective fairness in this process.
- Finally, what is the position of other Republican presidential candidates toward the candidacy of Dr. Keyes, and have any of these candidates, at any time, expressed to the debate's sponsors a desire to exclude Dr. Keyes from the debate? Bear in mind that this question is fair game in court, as are all the other above questions, and may require the sponsors to testify under oath the truth of their intentions, the basis for those intentions, and their attitudes toward the Keyes campaign and Dr. Keyes himself.At this late point, there's still time to get Ambassador Keyes in the debate. We request that an invitation be extended to him immediately.
CEO, Alan Keyes for President
From: Feist, Sam
To: Stephen Stone
Cc: Davis, Rick ; Chairman Jim Greer ; email@example.com
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2007 11:02 PM
Subject: RE: Inclusion of Alan Keyes in CNN/YouTube/Florida GOP debate
Dear Mr. Stone,
Thank you for your note regarding Ambassador Keyes' participation in the CNN/You Tube debate on November 28th.
CNN and You Tube have established objective criteria for inclusion in the debate, in accordance with Federal Election Commission guidelines. The objective criteria established for this debate included requirements that a candidate meet a bare minimum threshold in national polling and also that a candidate meet a minimum fundraising requirement.
Ambassador Keyes has not met the minimum national polling requirement. And he has not met our requirement that he raise a minimum of $1million in individual contributions. We believe that this fundraising criteria is an indication of a candidate's ability to run a viable national campaign. These are the identical criteria that CNN used in its recent Democratic presidential debate.
If you have additional questions, feel free to contact me directly.
CNN Political Director
From: Stephen Stone
Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2007 8:19 AM
To: Feist, Sam
Cc: Davis, Rick; Chairman Jim Greer; Delmar W. Johnson, III; Kirk Pepper; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Inclusion of Alan Keyes in CNN/YouTube/Florida GOP debate
I'm writing to learn if CNN plans to invite Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes to participate in the CNN/YouTube/Republican Party of Florida Debate, scheduled for Nov. 28 in St. Petersburg.
As you realize, Ambassador Keyes is one of nine candidates chosen by the Florida GOP — as well as the Florida Presidential Candidate Selection Committee — to be in the state's presidential primary.
The complete list of Republican candidates chosen for the primary by party and state officials is as follows:
Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Governor Mike Huckabee
Congressman Duncan Hunter
Ambassador Alan Keyes
Senator John McCain
Congressman Ron Paul
Governor Mitt Romney
Congressman Tom Tancredo
Senator Fred ThompsonTo date, all of the above candidates except Alan Keyes have been invited to participate in the debate.
You might also be interested to know that Ambassador Keyes has already been accepted on ten state's presidential ballots; placed ahead of Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, and Tom Tancredo in the latest Mason-Dixon Florida poll; and was just invited to participate in the Des Moines Register's Republican PBS Debate, scheduled for Dec. 12.
Since Dr. Keyes hasn't yet received an invitation to join the eight other recognized candidates in the upcoming Florida debate, I would like to know the basis for his apparent exclusion.
Please let me know ASAP the position of CNN in this matter.
Note that if Dr. Keyes is excluded on grounds that are self-evidently arbitrary, discriminatory, or unfair, the campaign will of course review its legal options. Dr. Keyes' civil rights, and the integrity of the electoral process, require CNN to show clear impartiality in the selection of the debate's participants.
The just and reasonable thing to do would be to include Dr. Keyes alongside the other candidates chosen by the State of Florida to appear on its Presidential Preference Primary ballot. Certainly, Florida voters have an interest in seeing and hearing all the GOP presidential candidates.
CEO, Alan Keyes for President