October 6, 2012
Hanna campaign on defensive over emails
Lamb claims congressman threatened to pull ad dollars in row over TV debate
Rep. Richard Hanna’s staff said Friday that Democratic opponent Dan Lamb’s claim that Hanna threatened to pull campaign advertising from a Utica television station is unfounded.
Lamb’s campaign for the 22nd Congressional District, where Hanna is the incumbent Republican, said this week that Hanna (R-Barneveld) threatened to pull his advertising from WUTR-TV if the station did not cancel coverage of a debate scheduled for Friday at WSYR-TV in Syracuse.
Lamb’s campaign staff provided news media with an email from Stephen Merren, WUTR’s general manager, to Lamb spokesman Mike Morosi, three staff members at WSYR and a Nexstar Broadcasting executive, dated Wednesday, that said Hanna was angry over the debate issue.
WUTR decided not to show the debate, then WSYR decided not to have it.
“He indicated to me that we would not be considered for his ad dollars and our level of cooperation in the future could be affected,” Merren wrote to Morosi, the WSYR staff and Tim Busch, chief operating officer for Nexstar, the Texas-based company that owns WUTR.
Hanna said in the email that the TV station was being “played” by Lamb “and the results would not be favorable for his continued ability to deal with our news organizations,” Merren wrote.
The debate was switched from featuring both candidates for an hour, then just Lamb (D-Freeville) for 30 minutes, since Hanna refused to join it.
Then it was canceled.
Hanna had agreed to six debates and did not want to add another once his schedule of debates was set, said Hanna said spokeswoman Renee Gamela.
“He already has twice as many debates as any other congressional race in New York,” Gamela said. “Everyone else has three.”
Hanna has not been campaigning on television or radio so far, said Gamela.
“Congressman Richard Hanna should be ashamed of himself for using his money to influence the journalistic decisions of a local news station,” Lamb said in a press statement.
“If this isn’t a violation of FCC rules it should be. What Hanna did is the moral equivalent of bribing a cop. If the news media can be bought off, our entire democracy is at risk.”
Lamb said he sought to provide the public “with an opportunity to hear both sides of the debate so that they could base their vote on something other than a 30-second advertisement.”
“Congressman Hanna has repeatedly tried to cover up his record of voting to privatize Medicare and cut college aid for middle class families while voting for a huge new tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires,” he said.
“I’ve always believed that you can buy all the ads in the world, but you can’t buy the truth. Now Mr. Hanna is trying to buy that too.”
But Gamela forwarded another email from Merren, showing that five hours after sending his email about Hanna to Morosi and the others, Merren sent a follow-up message saying he and Hanna had smoothed over the blowup.
“I had a nice conversation with Richard (Hanna) and we have backed out of this debate with WSYR,” Merren wrote.
“I agree with Richard that this was not a good idea. We would still like for Richard to come to the station any week day for an hour sit down alone with Joe Parker (WUTR news director). We will air it in the 7-8 p.m. hour and would accommodate any schedule that you need.”
Gamela said Hanna’s original call to Merren was a courtesy call.
The two candidates are scheduled to debate on Oct. 21 in Binghamton, Oct. 23 in Utica, Oct. 25 in Rome, Oct. 30 in Binghamton and Nov. 4 in Utica. They held a forum in Cortland on Sept. 29.
The 22nd Congressional District includes Cortland and Chenango counties, southeast Tioga County and most of Broome County.
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