In 2012, I worked as communications director for the Free And Equal Elections Foundation (F&E). We produced a series of two presidential debates that year, both attended by Jill Stein. The CIA now lists those debates as evidence of Russian interference in our elections.
As F&E’s communication director, I was tasked with increasing viewership of those debates.
In 2008, F&E hosted a presidential debate that was moderated by its chairwoman and broadcasted by C-SPAN 2. Nobody knew about it, and nobody watched it.
So I reached out to Larry King’s producer at ORA TV and got the ball rolling on Mr. King moderating one of our debates. I then started contacting other television networks to ask them to broadcast, and having Larry King attached to the debates helped open a few doors.
We managed to get commitments from Link TV, Free Speech TV, C-SPAN, along with ORA TV as would be expected since their host would be moderating. Missing from that list, though, were the major networks.
When contacting FOX, CNN, CBS, and ABC, etc, I was either met with silence or told that this was something that they couldn’t broadcast due to their relationship with the Commission on Presidential Debates.
We wanted as many people watching as possible, though, so I went to the international media. I managed to get commitments from both Al Jazeera and Russia Today. Other international media ran stories on the debates, but did not broadcast.
Thanks to Al Jazeera and Russia Today broadcasting the debates, we were inundated with interview requests for weeks by journalists all over the globe, from Switzerland to New Zealand, who had no idea that there was a Green or Libertarian Party in America.
They thought there was nothing but Republicans and Democrats here.
After that first debate at the Chicago Hilton on October 23, 2012, F&E was close to broke (I believe we spent close to $150k on that night) and on a shoestring budget.
Russia Today offered to put us up in their studio in DC and have Thom Hartmann moderate. Being broke, we accepted.
We drove from Chicago to DC, and thanks to Superstorm Sandy, we delayed the debate till November 5, the night before the election. After the debate we had dinner with Misha Solodovnikov, Russia Today’s DC bureau chief, so I really must be guilty of something.
What I’d like to know is if the CIA called those debates evidence of Russian meddling in our elections, what else is questionable in that report?
And if Jill Stein and I are guilty of anything, clearly Larry King, an icon of our media, along with Thom Hartmann, darling of mainstream liberal talk radio, must be complicit as well, right along with C-SPAN and the other American networks that broadcasted our debates.
Lawrence O'Donnell at MSNBC did a very positive segment on the first debate and should likely be questioned, too, while we're at it:
Bottom line for me is, if the Commission on Presidential Debates didn't block participation from independent and third party candidates, I never would have asked Russia Today.
Open the presidential debates and I promise I won't do it again.