Protests planned for WWL-TV mayoral debate tomorrow night in response to candidate Troy Henry not being invited

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Troy Henry.
  • Troy Henry.

An email sent today from the website Think504.com says that some supporters of mayoral candidate Troy Henry plan to block entrance to the candidates at a mayoral debate tomorrow night, in protest of Henry not being invited to participate.

The debate, sponsored by WWL-TV in partnership with the Committee for a Better New Orleans, will be broadcast live from the studios of WYES-TV beginning at 6 p.m. The invited candidates are Michael Bagneris, LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet.

Reached by phone this afternoon, Henry said he was unaware of the planned protest, adding, "I definitely agree they should allow me to participate, though. I think something nefarious is going on, quite frankly."

The Think 504 statement reads:

Supporters of Mayoral Candidate Troy Henry plan to deny other candidates entrance into the debate. Social groups like Justice and Beyond and the International People's Assembly and many others demand that WWL stop trying to influence the outcome of the mayoral debate and allow qualified candidate Troy Henry to participate in the last debate. Henry is rising in the polls and the citizens deserve to be exposed to the best candidates. Protesters will be out and legally exercising their constitutional rights to protest.

Tonight Justice and Beyond and the International People's Assembly sent a joint email clarifying that the groups are not supporting any candidate in the race, though "both groups do not favor having a debate without all of the candidates, including Mr. Troy Henry." They also said "neither group has planned to block other candidates from attending the forum." Members of both organizations had picketed WWL-TV earlier in the day in support of Henry being allowed to participate.

It's not clear which Henry supporters to which the Think504 email referred.

In a statement released this afternoon, WWL-TV executive news director Keith Esparros wrote, "Our criteria was set long ago and was well-publicized: any candidate at 5% or above in our WWL-TV/The Advocate poll would be invited to participate in our Mayoral Debate. Mr. Henry polled at less than 4%, and therefore did not meet the established criteria. To make an exception and allow him to participate would be unfair to all the other candidates (both those who did and those who did not meet the 5% threshold), and as a result we are unable to extend him an invitation."

That poll, conducted by phone Sept. 25-27, shows Cantrell with 27 percent support, Charbonnet with 26 percent and Bagneris with 19 percent, while Henry, the fourth-place finisher, has 4 percent — 1 percent below the criterion for being invited. The poll's margin of error is 4.3 percent, and 18 percent of voters remain undecided, according to the poll.

Henry says he originally was invited to participate, a claim Esparros denies.

"No, that's not true," Esparros told Gambit this afternoon. "Every candidate got a 'save the date' note letting them know they would be invited if they met the threshold."

"Why would you use stale data?" Henry asked, referencing the two-and-a-half week-old poll, its margin of error and the large percentage of undecided voters. "It just gives you some kind of reason to pause. It just doesn't smell right."

Henry did meet the criteria of, and participated in, two televised debates in recent days — the Sept. 27 "Voice of the People" debate organized by Sidney Torres' PAC, and a WDSU-TV debate Oct. 3.

Will he show up for the planned protest at the WWL-TV debate tomorrow night? "I'd rather have an invitation," Henry said.

Esparros had no comment when asked about planned security at the debate, which will air from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow night on WWL-TV, as well as on the station's Facebook feed and its website. It also will be rebroadcast Wed. Oct. 11 at 10 p.m. on WYES-TV.

Disclosure: WWL-TV is a newsgathering partner of Gambit.


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