There are many villains in Trump World – the “deep state,” the corporate elite, so-called woke culture and, of course, the despicable “liberal media.”
It’s worth considering all that when looking at the kerfuffle over the cancellation of Wednesday’s scheduled NJ PBS debate between Republican gubernatorial candidates Jack Ciattarelli and Hirsh Singh.
Ciattarelli is the choice of most party leaders while Singh is the self-proclaimed candidate of the Donald Trump-infused America First movement. Singh’s only path to an improbable upset revolves around a big primary turnout by supporters of the former president.
So for Singh, a man who likes calling his opponent, “Never Trump Jack Ciattarelli,” the debate cancellation amounts to a godsend.
It gives him a great opportunity to condemn one of the many villains in Trump World – the hated media.
“Liberal PBS News funded by your tax dollars has unilaterally canceled the second debate ….” he said in a statement Monday afternoon. The “second debate” reference has to do with a scheduled debate between the candidates tonight over radio station 101.5.
On his Facebook page, Singh amended his statement to read “Democrat-leaning PBS News.”
Televised debates of this type don’t draw a huge audience. Singh probably hopes he can get more political mileage out of trashing PBS than he would have actually debating Ciattarelli for the second night in a row.
After all, portraying yourself as a “victim” of the left-wing media is fairly common for Trump himself. It’s no surprise Singh is following suit.
The backstory here is not nearly that dramatic.
The PBS debate was keyed to the awarding of public funds to the candidates through the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.
PBS said in a statement Monday that both candidates had agreed to a “virtual arrangement” in late April. In addition to the pandemic, the statement said a virtual format was required because of studio renovations.
It wasn’t until late last week that news reports surfaced that Singh was unhappy with the format. He wanted a face-to-face debate.
I happened to see Singh last Friday night at a campaign event in Washington Township, Morris County. He said then that things were being worked out.
Singh’s statement said that his campaign had secured a suitable venue for an in-person event, but that PBS rejected it.
PBS in its statement said that the Singh campaign didn’t reconfirm its participation by a Monday deadline set by ELEC and that it had refused to comply with COVID testing requirements that are part of the station’s production protocols.
So by Monday evening, the Wednesday debate was officially off.
And despite his comments to the contrary, Singh is probably pleased with how things turned out.
After all, he ended his statement with a rhetorical call for “patriots” to save New Jersey, as if the proposed debate format was a threat to personal liberty.
The Ciattarelli camp by the way was not impressed by any of this. It called Singh “weak,” and a “perennial campaign loser” who still lives with his parents at age 36.
The candidates won’t be on TV, but that issue may make for some good radio tonight.