Oct 13, 2022 - Politics

Arizona debate drama ensues after PBS schedules Hobbs interview

Kari Lake speaks at a lectern with her campaign sign on the front

Kari Lake criticizes Arizona PBS and Katie Hobbs yesterday in downtown Phoenix. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) pulled the plug on its televised interview with Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake after Arizona PBS unilaterally scheduled a separate interview with Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs, despite her refusal to participate in a debate.

Context: Because Hobbs wouldn't debate Lake, Clean Elections and PBS scheduled a Q&A with Lake.

  • The commission and PBS team up to host candidate debates every election cycle.

What happened: Hours before the Lake interview was scheduled to tape, PBS confirmed that it would hold a separate televised interview with Hobbs on Tuesday.

  • The commission said it was unaware of the development.
  • In response, CCEC announced that it would postpone the Lake interview.
  • CCEC officials noted that they had already rejected a proposal by Hobbs to change the debate to a town hall-style event in which each candidate would be interviewed separately.

What they're saying: "This decision is disappointing, especially following the multiple attempts on behalf of all the partners involved in producing this year's general election debates, to organize a traditional gubernatorial debate between the two candidates," the commission said.

  • Clean Elections will find a new venue, date and broadcasting partner for its Q&A with Lake.

The other side: "It is our responsibility as a news agency to provide the public with access to the candidates who are running for office so they can learn more and make informed decisions," said Battinto Batts Jr., the dean of ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which is home to Arizona PBS.

  • Batts said Arizona PBS has offered 30-minute interviews on its "Arizona Horizon" news program to both Hobbs and Lake.

Lake described the decision as a "betrayal" and a "slap in the face," saying in a press statement, "PBS has now become complicit in Katie Hobbs' attempt to destroy 20 years of gubernatorial debate tradition."

  • She noted that Hobbs also refused to debate opponent Marco Lopez in the Democratic primary.
  • Lake said she wouldn't accept PBS' offer of a one-on-one interview and would accept only if she were on stage with Hobbs for a debate.
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