August 3, 2016 – I have had the unique misfortune to experience media bias in two different elections this year: the Democratic Presidential Primary and Florida’s United States Senate race. The coverage has been blatantly unbalanced and skewed toward name recognition only. I expected to receive disproportionately less coverage at the beginning of the Democratic Presidential Primary as I was an “unknown” competing against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders among others. However, I did not expect to be treated with the same disrespect within my home state of Florida but I was wrong.
I entered the Senate race extremely late in the cycle on June 20th. By that time, Alan Grayson, Patrick Murphy, Pamela Keith and Reginald Luster had been running for months. I knew it would take time to gain some momentum, but it is not as if I was totally unknown. I had just competed in for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 40 states, 5 territories and the District of Columbia. In the process, I had amassed more votes than current Governors Walker and Jindal, former Governors Chafee, Perry, Pataki & Gilmore, current Senator Graham and former Senators Webb and Santorum combined as well as more votes than Carly Fiorina, former Governor Huckabee, current Governor Christie and current Senator Rand Paul individually. This was accomplished without the support of the State Parties, without the support of the DNC (which decides who to promote via advertising, who to include in the polls and who to showcase in the debates and town halls), and without accepting money from a Super PAC.
Correspondingly, my social media scores reflect that I am better known globally than any of the other candidates.
(Global Rank as of 7/30)
|Facebook Fans||Twitter Followers|
|De La Fuente||537,532||220,534||236,000|
My reward in Florida has been a virtual media blackout; the most offensive of which was WFTV9’s (ABC) recent announcement that it will host what will probably be the campaign’s only televised debate between Rep. Grayson and Rep. Murphy. Fellow candidate, Pamela Keith, whom I’ve met and respect, issued the following statement about that issue.
“The idea of a news outlet reaching “agreement” with two candidates to exclude one of their opponents from a debate is, in and 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.”
While I share Ms. Keith’s frustration, I do not have sufficient facts to determine whether there is a racial motivation involved with respect to WFTV’s selection of candidates. However, it is especially disappointing that the network doesn’t see the social value of allowing African Americans and Hispanics to have role models that might inspire future generations. One has to wonder if WFTV would acknowledge the existence of a female candidate for President if it was not forced to do so.
I suspect that WFTV simply made the decision following suit with what the media has become increasingly inclined to do: favor name recognition over substance. It is easier to default to featuring career politicians than it is to actually research lesser known candidates. The fact that new candidates might offer unique solutions seems foreign to many of today’s media outlets. Instead, WFTV has chosen to feature two career politicians, who are trying to “move up” to Senate.
According to Politico, one of the selected has repeatedly misrepresented his academic and employment background as well as his professional credentials as a CPA. He was also exposed by CBS4 News (in Miami) for the falsely advertising the capabilities and testing of his company’s boats that were used in the cleanup of the BP oil spill.
Not to be outdone, the other featured candidate has been called upon to drop out of the race by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who stated that the individual’s actions as a hedge fund manager “aren’t just disgraceful to the Democratic Party; they disgrace the halls of Congress.” Sen, Chuck Schumer more recently echoed those sentiments when he told Politico that the individual has “shown himself not to be worthy of being a U.S. Senator.” This particular candidate is also currently under investigation for spousal abuse.
Given the quality of the frontrunners, MoveOn.org conducted a poll and recently refused to endorse any candidate running for U.S. Senate in Florida although, once again, the poll didn’t bother to include me. This, by the way, was the same way I was blocked from participating in the Presidential primary debates; I was excluded from the polls.
Meanwhile, WFTV will pretend that Representatives Murphy and Grayson are the only legitimate candidates while ignoring the candidacies of Ms. Keith, Mr. Luster and myself. The station believes it has the right to limit your choice and decide for you. It apparently believes you’re too stupid to form your own opinion.
But what has happened in forums in which real voters have been allowed to engage with the candidates directly? The Chambers of Commerce of Casselberry and Lakeland, Florida, have recently hosted Hob Nob events that conducted straw polls. The first one in Casselberry occurred when I had only been in the race 23 days (versus months for the other candidates). The Lakeland event took place 20 days later. While the Representatives Grayson and Murphy traded first and second place, it’s important to see how quickly I began to close the gap.
Yet, WFTV would prefer to pretend that I don’t exist. I think they should leave that up to you.
I am reminded of a quote by Albert Einstein: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” I would offer a corollary: We cannot solve our problems with the same politicians who created them.
We have ample evidence of how ineffective that can be. After all, we returned over 90 percent of incumbents to Congress when it had an approval rating of 9 percent. To quote Einstein again: “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.” WFTV has apparently not learned that lesson. In fact, it has simply enabled it.
If you don’t think it’s fair that WFTV is effectively limiting your choice, then write to them or call them to let them know… or simply stop watching that channel.
Here is their contact information:
490 E. South St., Orlando, FL 32801
Main Number: 407-841-9000
You can also email them by going to http://askwftv.com/?page_id=12. That’s their “Action 9” email address which, ironically, is “committed to assisting our viewers with problems related to businesses who do not treat customers fairly.”. Be sure to tell them that you’re a customer and you’re not being treated fairly.
If they complain, tell them, “This is what Democracy looks like.”
Those are my thoughts. What are yours?
(Please feel free to express you opinion below. My only request is that you do so rationally rather than emotionally and in a civil manner that respects the rights of others to disagree.)
Note: Just after publication, Rep. Patrick Murphy dropped out of the debate: http://www.wftv.com/news/local/democratic-senate-candidate-backs-out-of-debate-on-wftvs-central-florida-spotlight/411394964