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Editorial & Opinion

Luis Daniel Muñoz: WPRI/Channel 12 debate inclusion policy is discriminatory



Most of the battles we have undertaken for the gain or restoration of civil rights and individual liberties were in opposition to exclusionary policies that were made and intended for the integrity of an exclusive society.

The purpose of this letter is to inform Rhode Islanders of the discriminatory practices inherent in Rhode Island’s political arena and those practices shared by certain political media outlets, which is exemplified by the exclusivity of WPRI’s scheduled televised gubernatorial debate.

WPRI (channel 12) in collaboration with Roger Williams University will be hosting the first televised gubernatorial debate on Thursday, September 27th, which will include only three out of six gubernatorial candidates on the election ballot. I believe that the exclusion criteria created and enforced by WPRI and its parent company is inherently DISCRIMINATORY, and I have written a letter to the FCC, Rhode Island Board of Elections, and WPRI staff to express my concerns. (see below)

Over the past several months, WPRI has provided coverage to two independent candidates, and a moderate party candidate, but chose to deny me that opportunity. The lack of inclusion in the upcoming televised debate only reinforces my earlier concerns regarding potential discrimination. In 2014, WPRI made an exception to their enforcement of the exclusion criteria by including Mr. Robert Healey in the televised gubernatorial debate, while he had not fulfilled a similar criterion (i.e., he had not raised sufficient campaign funds).

Over the past several months, I have reached out to staff members at WPRI in an attempt to access equal time. WPRI is one of three TV and radio stations that did not provide me with an equal opportunity to share my platform, which would help Rhode Island voters understand their choices in November. The additional stations/outlets include, Rhode Island Public Radio (RIPR) and ABC6 news. These organizations have chosen to omit the diversity of thoughts and platforms available to voters on the general election ballot, a decision that will only benefit the incumbent Governor.

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The persistent corruption that exist in Rhode Island politics cannot be tackled if those that are given the power to inform continue to withhold information from the public. On the campaign trail, I have been asked to step aside frequently, but these experiences have only strengthened my resolve. On the other hand, I believe that excluding me from a debate is a greater insult to our democratic process because it further empowers those who wish to sustain the same old Rhode Island politics.

My personal journey in rising out of one of Rhode Island’s toughest cities in pursuit of the American dream, and my message of programmatic change that can result in economic opportunity and justice for all people, should not be dismissed or disregarded in this election. It is economic opportunity and economic justice that every Rhode Islander deserves, and this is the basis of why I am running for Governor.

It’s time to rise up, speak up, and to make your voices heard! Share this letter with at least 15 of your friends and family, and tell them that it’s time we stand, walk, and run together. If not us, then who? (Donate) (Like the page) (Learn more)

My personal and professional experiences have left me with a deep understanding of the challenges that our communities, schools, health systems, and local economies are facing. I believe that we must reduce the burden of taxation on families, beginning with the removal of RI’s most regressive taxes (e.g., the “car tax” and “tangible property tax” that affect individuals and small businesses, respectively). There is a monopoly on health insurance in Rhode Island that contributes to rising premium rates and rising cost of care, while we must stabilize those premium rates and invest in community health to ensure access to health services at reasonable prices. We must also invest in our youth and in new educational approaches, which will leave students with the fundamental skills needed to access better paying jobs and access to greater opportunities.

My belief is that if we provide families and individuals with the necessary work and life skills, reasonable access to affordable health services, and with the opportunity to become engaged leaders within their community, then we will produce a stronger and healthier workforce that will attract industries, foster safer communities, and strengthen the shared value-system that is representative of our great country.

Letter forwarded to WPRI, FCC, and Board of Elections (see below):

“The purpose of this email is to formally request participation in the upcoming WPRI televised debate. In previous emails to the WPRI team, I have expressed concerns regarding the lack of coverage as compared to the other independent(s) in the race. Following an informative discussion with officials at the FCC, I have come to better understand the various interpretations of the equal time rules as it applies to news interviews.

“Nevertheless, I continue to have concerns regarding the practice of excluding candidates from general election televised debates. The WPRI sponsored poll as a tool used to enforce the WPRI exclusion criteria, along with the monetary/funding requirements section, lead me to believe that the established criteria unfairly discriminates against certain candidates. Additionally, exceptions to the criteria have been made in the past, which I have not been afforded. As an example of exceptions that were previously made, Mr. Robert Healey was given an opportunity to participate in the WPRI televised debate in 2014, and though he may have been able to demonstrate the required poll percentages related to his previous Lt. Governor’s race in 2010, he did not meet the monetary/funding requirements.

“As a ballot-certified candidate who has dedicated over a year to the process of campaigning, canvassing, projecting a thoughtful platform, and making financial, professional and personal sacrifices to provide voters with an option/choice… I am simply asking for the opportunity to present my candidacy. In a time where so many are fighting to preserve the right to speak freely and the necessity to be informed (transparency), I am simply asking for the same opportunity that Mr. Robert Healey was given to educate and inform the public regarding my campaign and the issues at stake in this gubernatorial race.”