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NBC Blocks Kucinich From Debate

Christopher Kutruff

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    Two days after inviting Dennis Kucinich to Tuesday's January 15 presidential debates, NBC decided to change its previously announced criteria and exclude the Ohio congressman.

    Friday morning, NBC political director Chuck Todd informed the Kucinich campaign that NBC would be "re-doing" the criteria for the debates and only Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards would be included.

    Representative Kucinich said he had met the previous qualifications by ranking fourth in several national polls including a January 4-6 USA Today/Gallup poll.

    In a Wednesday, January 9, email to the Kucinich campaign, NBC Democratic Party debates consultant Jenny Backus wrote, "Congratulations on another hard-fought contest. Now that New Hampshire is over, we are on to Nevada and our Presidential Debate on Tuesday, January 15. This letter serves as an official invitation for your candidate to participate in the Nevada Presidential Debate at Cashman Theatre in downtown Las Vegas. You have met the criteria set by NBC and the Debate."

    The Kucinich campaign filed an emergency complaint earlier with the Federal Communications Commission for being excluded from ABC's coverage of the debates. The congressman said he is considering similar legal action against NBC for its policy reversal.

    Despite his long-shot status, Kucinich continues to attract an audience on the campaign trail, which he attributes to "the emerging culture of information technology that's Internet-based. And the other one is the more conventional TV technology which is coming to a clash. And I think they reflect some political trends in this country that maybe aren't getting too much attention. But they are going to have an impact," according to recent comments Kucinich made during an interview with newsman Bill Moyers.

    In a recent Democracy for America online survey, Kucinich ranked first with about 32 percent of the vote. The survey, which was not a scientific poll, attracted about 150,000 participants.

    Kucinich won the December 23 Virginia Democratic Party's online presidential straw poll, eclipsing Hillary Clinton and gaining about a third of the votes. He has also came out on top of a Washington State straw poll. But despite these signs of momentum, major networks have maintained a separate focus - limiting Kucinich's exposure.

    These factors, the Kucinich campaign contends, should allow the congressman to participate in prime-time debates.

    Christopher Kutruff is a regular contributor to Truthout.