Underdog Senate candidate calls her exclusion from debate ‘blatant racism and sexism’

by | Jul 27, 2016

Senate candidate Pam Keith is not happy about being left out of an upcoming Democratic primary debate, and she’s accusing the television station organizing the debate of “blatant racism and sexism.”

WFTV-Orlando will host the debate on Aug. 12, and only invited Rep. Alan Grayson and Rep. Patrick Murphy to participate. Three other Democrats who qualified for the primary — Keith, Reginald Luster, and “Rocky” Roque De La Fuente — were not included.

“The threshold we used for our debate was 15 percent or higher. While there are many candidates for the Democratic Senate seat, only two meet that threshold: Rep. Patrick Murphy and Rep. Alan Grayson,” the station said in a statement provided to The Miami Herald / Tampa Bay Times. WFTV also has offered to all candidates who qualified for the ballot the opportunity to record 3-minute segments “to communicate their stance on the issues to the people of Central Florida.”

That was an unacceptable explanation for Keith, who provided the Herald / Times her own statement, accusing WFTV of “colluding…to keep all candidates of color out of the debate.”

The idea of a news outlet reaching “agreement” with two candidates to exclude one of their opponents from a debate is, in an of itself, obscene. Media outlets must never allow themselves to become extensions of political campaigns or to be used to advance political objectives. It cheapens the media’s role in informing the public.


But in this case, the collusion is even more distasteful because of the blatant racism and sexism involved therein. Not only have they colluded to keep me out of this debate, but to keep all candidates of color out of the debate. As disrespectful as that is to the candidates themselves, it is an utter debasement of voters of color. Essentially, WFTV wants to ensure that all voters, but especially women, African American and Hispanic voters, remain ignorant of any candidates other than the two wealthy white men they seek to promote. It is an offense and disgrace. People of color make up more than half of the Democratic electorate, and women are more than 50% of the vote. To treat those voters, who may have a particular interest in a woman candidate or candidates of color, as inconsequential is beyond belief.

Keith, an attorney and former naval officer, is African-American, and Grayson and Murphy are both white.

As the Herald noted, Keith received 10 percent and 11 percent support in two News 13/Bay News 9 polls conducted in March and June, a few points under the 15 percent debate threshold set by WFTV.

The question that should be asked: considering the deluge of negative press raining down on both Grayson and Murphy, could that be enough to bump Keith up a few points, so she could meet that debate threshold?

The challenge for Keith is that many polls haven’t included her at all. Democrat pollster Public Policy Polling has run a variety of polls related to the Florida Senate race and various possible match-ups between the possible candidates, but they haven’t included Keith.

Keith posted a note on her Facebook page on Tuesday addressing the controversy, fighting back against the idea that the polling was a valid reason to exclude her.

“I am polling above 10% and neither opponent is polling above 30%,” wrote Keith. “This is particularly important as more than 30% of voters remain undecided and are likely to make up their minds based on the debates and Editorial Board endorsements.”

She also speculated that Grayson and Murphy were intimidated by her public speaking skills, and mentioned the negative press both had received recently.

“Patrick Murphy has been exposed as disingenuous and untruthful,” she wrote. “Alan Grayson is now dealing with yet another incident of confrontational behavior, as well as allegations of spousal abuse. Democratic voters ought to be informed that they have a choice other than these two men.”

Photo credit: YouTube screenshot.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.

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