U.S. Rep. Skips Debate, But KET Airs His Statement

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield skipped what was to be a live debate broadcast on statewide public television and instead sent a taped segment to be aired after his challenger answered questions from a panel of reporters.

Whitfield's Democratic challenger, Heather Ryan of Paducah, said she discovered just hours before her scheduled appearance Monday that Kentucky Educational Television would allow Whitfield to skip the debate, but still get televised time.

Whitfield, R-Hopkinsville, was first elected in 1994 and represents the 1st Congressional District covering far western Kentucky.

"This completely changes the dynamics of everything KET and its debates are supposed to be about," Ryan told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Why would any incumbent ever agree to a debate if all you have to do is skip the questions and the rebuttals and just submit a campaign commercial, which KET will broadcast for free?"

Whitfield campaign spokeswoman Kristin Walker said Tuesday that the congressman was unable to attend the debate because of previously scheduled political rallies in the district.

"He had made prior commitments that he needed to keep," she said.

In a statement, KET said the Whitfield campaign declined its invitation to appear on the debate, and instead requested to broadcast a recorded statement. Shae Hopkins, KET deputy executive director, said in the statement that KET was obligated under FCC "equal opportunities rules" to provide equal time by broadcasting the recorded statement.

Candidates who skipped previous KET debates did not appear on the air and were briefly mentioned by the moderator at the start of the show.
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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