Avoid campus during Katie Hobbs interview

Democratic candidate for Arizona governor Katie Hobbs has gotten her wish for separate televised interviews of herself and her Republican opponent Kari Lake, but only after a media circus last week orchestrated by the Lake campaign. 

Hobbs had pitched the separate interviews as an alternative to participating in the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission debate, but the CCEC rejected her proposal and instead scheduled a 30-minute televised interview with Lake on Arizona PBS. 

That was set to be taped and air on Oct. 12 — until Hobbs announced that she would be getting her own 30-minute Arizona PBS interview on Oct. 18. That infuriated both Lake and the CCEC. Clean Elections scrapped the Lake interview on Arizona PBS and scrambled to find a new media partner so it could reschedule the question-and-answer session with Lake.

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Hobbs’ appearance on “Arizona Horizon,” a long-running public affairs show on Arizona PBS, was set to be recorded at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 18 and air at 5 p.m. 

The Arizona Clean Elections Commission rescheduled its interview with Lake for 5 p.m. Oct. 23 on AZTV7, an independent, locally owned television station. 

“Thank you to @AZCEC for rescheduling the gubernatorial debate with a new broadcast partner,” Lake tweeted. “Arizona voters deserve this. I’m looking forward to being there. @katiehobbs, given how badly last week went for you, I hope you find the courage to join me.”

After last week’s outrage, leaders at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism feared for the safety of staff and students Wednesday. Battinto Batts, dean of the Cronkite School, emailed students on Monday to advise them to work with their professors to coordinate virtual learning and to avoid the school’s downtown campus since “we do not know what the onsite circumstances may be around the Cronkite building.”

Arizona PBS became part of the Cronkite School in 2014 after operating independently for more than five decades.

The Hobbs campaign claimed in an email that ASU staff members had received death threats and had racial slurs directed at them following Lake’s on-campus news conference last week calling out Arizona PBS for scheduling a separate interview with Hobbs in place of a debate. 

Arizona State University, the Cronkite School and Batts did not respond to questions about the alleged death threats or Batts’ advice to students to stay off campus the afternoon of the Hobbs interview. 

But Lake mocked the idea, tweeting that her supporters did not plan to waste their time protesting the Hobbs interview and instead would be at a forum that night in Chandler alongside herself, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Blake Masters and Republican candidate for attorney general Abe Hamadeh.

A representative of the Cronkite School told the Arizona Mirror that Arizona PBS, which operates under the call letters KAET, had extended an invitation to Lake for her own one-on-one interview after the Clean Elections Commission canceled the one set for Oct. 12, and that invitation remains open.

“While KAET certainly appreciates the value of ‘tradition,’ KAET also has a responsibility to deliver news and information to the people of Arizona as well as responsibilities as a broadcaster with a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC),” the Cronkite School spokesperson said in an email to the Lake campaign. “The invitations issued to both major party candidates for Arizona Governor were issued in light of those responsibilities.”

In August, Hobbs declined to take part in the Clean Elections debate with Lake, saying that she was not willing to share a debate stage with Lake because “you can’t debate a conspiracy theorist,” adding that Lake “only wants a spectacle.” 

During the primary debate for the Republican gubernatorial candidate, also hosted by the Clean Elections Commission, candidates repeatedly interrupted and spoke over one another.

“I’d actually like to ask everybody on this stage if they would agree we had a corrupt, stolen election, raise your hand,” Lake said during that debate. 

Later in the debate, Lake said she felt like she was on a “Saturday Night Live” skit and offered to take control from the moderator, veteran journalist and “Arizona Horizon” host Ted Simons. 

For years the CCEC and Arizona PBS have worked together to air debates between important statewide and legislative candidates. 

Historically, if one candidate refuses to debate, the commission instead hosts a 30-minute one-on-one interview with the other candidate. The Hobbs campaign asked the commission to conduct separate interviews with herself and Hobbs, but the commission denied her request. 

Then, without consulting the commission, PBS agreed to interview Hobbs separately. That prompted Lake to hold a news conference Oct. 13 at the Cronkite School that garnered national attention

During the press conference, Lake accused Arizona PBS of taking sides by agreeing to interview Hobbs separately, saying it goes against two decades of tradition. 

Lake then gave the station a deadline to agree to televise a debate instead of a one-on-one interview, or to rescind its invitation to interview Hobbs alone. 

Arizona PBS did not respond. 

“We are disappointed that we did not hear back, but not surprised,” Lake tweeted. 

After the deadline passed, Lake said she would not participate in any more Arizona PBS-affiliated events. 

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