DNC cancels CBS presidential debate
The Democratic Party pulled the plug today on a CBS presidential candidate debate set to be held in Los Angeles on Dec. 10, citing the possibility of a strike by CBS News employees.
"Due to the uncertainty created by the ongoing labor dispute between CBS and the Writers Guild of America, the DNC has canceled the December 10th debate in Los Angeles,” Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Karen Finney said in a statement. “There are no plans to reschedule.”
After going 2½ years without a contract, a majority of CBS’ 500 news writers and other local and network employees represented by the Writers Guild of America voted earlier this month to authorize a strike against the network.
The union had not yet decided whether to call for a labor stoppage, but the mere prospect of a walkout alarmed network and party officials, especially after the major Democratic candidates announced they would not cross a picket line to participate in the forum.
Even if the news writers stayed on the job, the WGA could have chosen to picket the debate as part of the ongoing film and television writers strike.
In a series of back-channel meetings, CBS sought to persuade the guild to refrain from picketing the event in the name of public interest, but were unsuccessful, according to people familiar with the discussions.
“CBS News regrets not being able to offer the Democratic presidential debate scheduled for Dec. 10 in Los Angeles,” the network said in a statement. “The possibility of picket lines set up by the Writers Guild of America and the unwillingness of many candidates to cross them made it necessary to allow the candidates to make other plans.”
The debate, which was set to be carried by CSPAN and some local CBS affiliates, would have offered moderator Katie Couric a forum to demonstrate her political chops as the campaign season swings into full gear.
“There’s disappointment,” said one newsroom staffer. “It was a big thing, and we were all excited to do it.”
-- Matea Gold
For the record: An earlier version of this post said that the Democratic Party, along with CBS, tried to persuade the WGA not to picket the Dec. 10 debate. Although party officials checked in with guild leaders about their plans, they did not ask the union not to picket.