Nevada Judge Says NBC Must Include Dennis Kucinichby Doug Mataconis
Late yesterday, a state court Judge in Nevada said that NBC must include Dennis Kucinich (D., Mars) in tonight’s Democratic debate:
A judge in Nevada has just ordered MSNBC to include Rep. Dennis Kucinich in Tuesday’s Democratic Party presidential debate in Las Vegas or he will cancel the forum.
Senior Clark County District Court Judge Charles Thompson vowed to issue an injunction halting the nationally televised debate if MSNBC failed to comply. Kucinich had filed a lawsuit seeking to be included just this morning.
The judge ruled Monday it was a matter of fairness and Nevada voters would benefit from hearing from more than just Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama. Kucinich had been invited to participate in the 6 p.m. Pacific debate Tuesday, but that invitation was rescinded last week following the results of the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucuses that showed Kucinich trailing badly.
The problem with Judge Thompson’s ruling is that there is no such thing as a Constitution right to “fairness”, whatever that means. The Constitution, does however, have this to say:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Where in there does it authorize the state to mandate who should be invited to a completely private affair ?
Yea, I don’t see it either.
Dennis Kucinich doesn’t have a “right” to be invited to tonight’s debate, it’s really just that simple. NBC has said that they would appeal the judge’s decision to Nevada’s Supreme Court. Here’s hoping that the justices restore some sanity to this situation.
Update @4:30pm: NBC has filed it’s appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court:
The NBC television network has asked Nevada’s Supreme Court to overturn a Clark County District Court judge’s decision that Cleveland’s Dennis Kucinich must be allowed to participate in tonight’s debate for Democratic presidential candidates.
In documents filed at the court this morning, the network asserted that it decided on Jan. 10 to change its debate participation criteria, and require that candidates have finished in the top three in either the Iowa Caucus or the New Hampshire Primary.
“The revised criteria governing the January 15th debate are viewpoint neutral, and are in no way designed to exclude any particular candidate based on his or her views,” said NBC’s legal filing. “Instead, the revised criteria represent a good faith editorial choice of a privately-owned cable network to limit debate participants based on the status of their campaigns.”
NBC also questions whether Senior Judge J. Charles Thompson had jurisdiction in the case. It says the Constitution’s First Amendment protects its right to decide who will participate in a cable news debate and that its decision to rescind a prior invitation to Kucinich doesn’t constitute a breach of contract, as the candidate insists.
“If such an unprecedented theory is adopted here, it would mean that news organizations would be forbidden from making timely decisions about who or what to feature in their programming based on daily developments in news for fear that a previously invited guest could assert a breach of contract claim,” the network says in its filing. “Mr. Kucinich’s claim is nothing more than an illegitimate private cause of action designed to impose an equal access requirement that entirely undermines the wide journalistic freedoms enjoyed by news organizations under the First Amendment.”
Copies of NBC’s appeal filings are available in PDF format.
Update @ 8:15pm: The Nevada Supreme Court has reversed the trial judge’s ruling:
This just in from the state Supreme Court: NBC/MSNBC win, Kucinich loses. The congressman from Ohio won’t be on stage at the televised debate in 45 minutes.
He argued that the network offered, and then withdrew, an offer that he participate in the debate, and he protested. The court disagreed.
Finally, some sanity prevails.