New York, New York– The Farley for Senate campaign released the following statement from its General Consultant, Kent Gates, to put on the record the series of events that led to the cancellation of Sunday night’s Spectrum NY1 debate at Skidmore College. Unfortunately, due to the backhanded maneuvering of Gillibrand and her staff, there is no third-party sponsor for the debate which could provide a statewide telecast:
“After finally speaking with one of Senator Gillibrand’s senior staffers last night, I was told that Sunday night’s debate was actually initiated by Gillibrand in July 2018. Her office reached out to both Skidmore College and Spectrum NY1 to arrange her sole debate at her preferred date, time and venue. The Farley campaign was never consulted. In September 2018, Spectrum NY1 reached out to the Farley campaign about a debate on Oct 21, 2018, at Skidmore College, and Chele Farley immediately accepted. It was not until October 4, 2018, after the Farley campaign sent out a press release challenging Gillibrand to accept the 5 debate offers that had been received, that Spectrum NY1 confirmed that Gillibrand had accepted and would be participating.
After 6 pm on Friday, 48 hours before the only planned US Senate debate on Sunday evening October 21, 2018, Gillibrand sent out a statement backing out of the debate, citing an ongoing labor dispute that would require her to cross a “de facto picket line.” Gillibrand had no problem crossing the same “de facto picket line” on several occasions earlier this year when she appeared on Spectrum News programs. Gillibrand was interviewed by one of the debate moderators about gun control legislation. On March 11, 2018, she appeared on a show to talk about the women’s movement.
The most insulting part of the whole series of events is at no point did anyone from Gillibrand’s office reach out to the Farley campaign to notify us of the issue and discuss a viable solution. Yet, Gillibrand in her statement said, “If not [strike] resolved, my campaign stands ready to debate Sunday night with a different media partner or will explore another date and venue to conduct a debate before the election.”
It is clear by her actions and lack of contact with the campaign, that Senator Gillibrand had no intention of keeping her word. She had already rejected a debate offer from News12 Long Island that was set for October 18, 2018, then rescheduled for November 1, 2018, to accommodate Gillibrand’s legislative schedule. (Note that the Senate adjourned until after the election on October 11, 2018, and Senator Gillibrand was campaigning in New Hampshire on October 18, 2018.)
Gillibrand did make good on the other part of the statement by reaching out to the Albany Times-Union, her hometown newspaper with no ability to televise statewide, and securing them as a potential replacement host and sponsor for Sunday’s debate.
Only after they had set the terms with the Times-Union, did Gillibrand’s office finally contact the Farley campaign and offer the replacement moderators and sponsors for Sunday night as a take-it-or-leave-it offer. The implication from Gillibrand’s office was that if Farley didn’t accept the debate as Gillibrand’s office had proposed them, she was going back on what she had said about accepting all legitimate debate offers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Debates should be independent and fair. They should be put on by third-party organizations. The Gillibrand campaign shouldn’t have been allowed to dictate the terms for the original debate nor the replacement sponsors and moderators that were only needed because she backed out of the debate she originally planned on the network she chose.
In most debates, there are meetings and negotiations to the terms of the debate between the sponsors and the campaigns. This did not happen in this case. If it had, it would have opened a dialogue and leveled the playing field, which would have avoided the end result. The debate as Gillibrand’s office now designs it would not be on statewide TV and would deny the majority of voters the opportunity to watch the debate and make an informed decision before they vote on November 6, 2018.
Senator Gillibrand throughout her public career has talked about transparency and openness. She has debated in each of her last two Senatorial campaigns and called for debates when she first ran for the House in 2006. Last night, she walked away from this record in a series of cold and calculated steps to avoid debating. Why? Is it because she can’t explain how she plans to pay for her more than $40 trillion in new spending? Or, she can’t risk her reputation as the #MeTooSenator being exposed because of her connections to Harvey Weinstein and others – making her just the #MeFirstSenator? Or, is it because she’s too busy running for President? She’s only spent one day in New York this month, while making five stops on the Presidential campaign trail in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee before capping of a visit to the home of the first Presidential Primary, New Hampshire.
Whatever Gillibrand’s reasons for getting out of Sunday night’s debate on TV, the message is loud and clear. She has once again failed New Yorkers by putting her needs and ambitions ahead of the voters she seeks to continue representing in Washington. Debates are a core part of campaigning and democracy, and Gillibrand broke the commitment she made to advance our democratic system.