Congressman Jim Gerlach's campaign demanded the debate with Manan Trivedi in PA-06 yesterday not be recorded. The Trivedi campaign welcomed both audio and video coverage but the sponsoring League of Women Voters banned such coverage at the insistence of the Gerlach staff. One Gerlach staffer even forced a reporter from NPR station WHYY to turn off their recorder. Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Joelle Farrell reported the controversy:
Before the debate even began, there was a dustup over press coverage. The League of Women Voters, who hosted the event, did not allow video or audio of the event at the request of the Gerlach campaign, said Barbara Dewilde, a director of the League of Women Voters in Chester County. The Trivedi campaign said it had no problem with recording of the event.
During the debate, a Gerlach campaign spokesman asked a WHYY reporter to turn off an audio recorder.
When asked why the campaign did not allow recording, the spokesman, Gregory Francis, said, "We didn't see a benefit for us."
Later, another Gerlach spokesman called to clarify, saying the congressman's campaign never intended to prevent press coverage of the event, but had asked that neither campaign record the event. He called it a mix up.
The Gerlach campaign isn't the only one that has refused to be recorded. The Doug Pike campaign in the Democratic primary which also refused to allow press recording of debates. I covered one in Bryn Mawr where the Trivedi campaign openly invited me to record the discussion with my video camera. The Pike campaign had insisted on no recording and I was told to stop. At a second debate in Kutztown the Pike people were insistent with the sponsors that no recording be allowed.
The Trivedi campaign contacted me directly before yesterday's debate and offered me the opportunity to record the debate. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend yesterday's debate. Manan Trivedi released this statement about the incident:
"It is shameful that a congressman would want to hide from his constituents, though with a record of hurting his own district like Congressman Gerlach has, it's no surprise," Trivedi said. "But I know that the people of the 6th District deserve more than buried truth and hide-and-seek. No one is ever going to start trusting their elected officials again unless we send new leaders to Congress who will start practicing the transparency and openness that a democratically-elected government requires."