The Baltimore Sun writes that if the goal was to cause confusion and stoke anger among Baltimore voters while trying to tarnish the images of two of the city’s top Democratic leaders, then you would probably call Sinclair’s WBFF’s town hall meeting Tuesday a success.
The station had a town hall and the Sun says it was not just a failure, but a reminder of the trouble media outlets can cause when they try to inject themselves into the political process.
The controversy involves WBFF claiming Mayor Jack Young and City Council President Brandon Scott were last-minute no shows Tuesday night in the town hall meeting after confirming that they would attend. Both Young and Scott deny the claims.
"WBFF produced a town hall at Coppin State University to give the public an opportunity to express their concerns with elected city officials and community leaders,' the station’s news director Mike Tomko wrote in an email to The Sun Wednesday. "Both Mayor Young and Council President Scott confirmed they would attend the town hall as panelists.”
Tomko’s email continued, “Fox45 made every panelist aware of the town hall subject matter at the time the invitations were made and the discussions began ... The mayor backed out of the town hall and his office made it clear no one from his cabinet would participate as well. Commissioner Michael Harrison was a confirmed panelist, but withdrew shortly after the mayor. City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises also confirmed, but withdrew hours later. In a phone conversation, Council President Scott’s campaign withdrew from our town with less than 24 hours notice of the event.”
In a tweet Wednesday, Scott wrote: " Yesterday’s town hall was originally pitched to me as a conversation between elected and citywide officials. Over the past week, the makeup of the panel changed fundamentally and continued to be in flux until the day of the event."
He followed that with more tweets saying: “The station did not proactively communicate these changes to my office, which raised serious concerns about the true nature and purpose of the town hall. For everyone who expected to see me because of the ads, I apologize. Last night, I was fulfilling commitments I previously made, attending 4 separate public events. This summer, I hosted 9 town hall events across Baltimore on my legislative proposal and heard community concerns. Unfortunately, the planning process here was not done in good faith."
As for Mayor Young.
Young’s spokesman, Lester Davis, told The Sun’s Kevin Rector that the mayor’s office had told Fox “a couple weeks ago” that the mayor would not be participating in the event — and didn’t budge, including after the station began to “threaten” them with having an empty chair being put on the stage with Young’s name on it.
“We’ve come to expect unscrupulous behavior from them,” Davis said of WBFF.
Young told Rector he didn’t go to the Fox event because he didn’t want to: “I didn’t pull out, I just didn’t go,” he said. “I didn’t want to go.”
You have to wonder if the Mayor and the City Council President were Republicans if the Sinclair station would have done this differently?
I’ll go out on a limb and say, Hell Yeah they would have.