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Mr. Chartock and Gov. Cuomo at WAMC 90.3 FM's studio.
Did Pataki know?
Press coverage was rigged at Cuomo/Pataki debate 

by G. M. Heller
Washington, D.C.
Updated:  Sunday, March 18, 2001  07:00 PM EST
In a revelation that may shock some and come as no surprise to others, an informed source alleges that press coverage of the famous October 1994 ‘no-show' gubernatorial debate, between then three-term incumbent Governor Mario M. Cuomo and then freshman state Senator George E. Pataki, was rigged in advance by the organizer and moderator of the event, in order to favor Mr. Cuomo.

Alan Seth ChartockThe informed source revealed to WAMC Pirate that the debate's organizer and moderator Alan Seth Chartock, who is political commentator for Albany's WAMC 90.3 FM Northeast Public Radio, rigged press coverage of the event by making sure in advance that reporters favorable to Mr. Cuomo would be the ones on hand to cover the event when it was broadcast live from the public television studios of WMHT-TV, Channel 17 in Schenectady on Friday evening, October 14, 1994. Mr. Chartock, a professor of political science at the State University of New York, also serves as WAMC's chairman and executive director.

To contact Gov. Pataki, Gov. Cuomo & WAMC's Chartock,Click Here!
The debate, held just three and a half weeks before election day, was the first and only time the two main party candidates were to square-off against each other on the same stage in what the Albany Times-Union then labeled 'the most hotly contested gubernatorial election in 12 years.'

Gov. Mario M. CuomoIn the days prior to the event, there was intense public bickering between the two political camps as to format, with Mr. Pataki arguing for one-on-one debate, while Mr. Cuomo pressed for inclusion of third-party candidates.

Debate between the two main candidates never occurred though, because Senator Pataki decided at the last minute not to participate.  The event, which had been given substantial advance publicity statewide, became little more than a forum for Governor Cuomo to defend his policies and reforms.  It also gave third-party candidates on the dais some much needed media exposure. 

Senator Pataki's decision not to show up at the debate generated a great deal of criticism from those who claimed Mr. Pataki was afraid to debate Mr. Cuomo.  The critics though, were no match for the majority of the electorate, and three weeks later Mr. Pataki became New York's next governor. 

Governor Pataki's office was notified this past Friday morning about the revelations and asked to comment whether or not he knew at the time that press coverage of the debate had been rigged against him, and whether that had played a role in his decision not to participate.  Late Friday afternoon, the Governor's press officer, Joe Conway, responded that, at this time, the Governor declines to comment on the matter.

Telephone calls and E-mail inquiries made this past Friday morning to Governor Cuomo at his law office in Manhattan have not been returned. 

Telephoned inquiries made Friday to Alan Chartock at his WAMC office, and at his Great Barrington home have not been returned. 

The televised debate was broadcast from the studios of WMHT-TV, and simulcast over WAMC's radio network, with other public radio and television stations across the state picking up the broadcast feed.

The alleged rigging of the Cuomo/Pataki debate coverage was brought to the attention of WAMC Pirate by the informed source, an individual connected to Mr. Chartock's WAMC Northeast Public Radio network, who granted permission to tape record portions of a three and one-half hour interview on the condition that the source's anonymity be preserved. 

The following taped excerpts are transcribed from that interview:

WAMC Pirate:  "Do you remember specific instances when he (Mr. Chartock) would try to slant news to favor Mr. Cuomo?"

Source:  "Well, I remember there was a conference that Alan.......a news......there was a......something that Alan put together actually.  It was......when Mario Cuomo went and they had a......it was during the election when he lost to Pataki.
           "Alan organized at Channel (17) a debate between Mario Cuomo and these other two candidates.  I don‘t remember who they were, and they invited Pataki.  Pataki did not show up.
             "But just I remember Alan Chartock was on the phone with other news organizations trying to get certain reporters to be out sent to cover this. 
             "Else why would he want a certain reporter to be sent to cover this?  If he didn't know that reporter's, ya know, preferences, in other words."

WAMC Pirate:  "So you feel that the reporters that he chose to, and he requested to......"

Source:  "He would request......" 

WAMC Pirate:  ".....cover this, that they were more predisposed to favorable report on......"

Source:  "Sure!  Right!  Whatever Alan's agenda was.  Yes!  Cause he has Albany wrapped-up like that."

WAMC Pirate:  "Okay, so his coordination of it, what you're concerned about is, the coordination of it, from the standpoint that there was a bias involved?"

Source:  "Right!   Well for, ya know, the few days beforehand, Alan would talk to people with different newspapers around through the region.  I guess (Albany) Times-Union was one of them.
              "He'd have the certain reporters picked out, ya know, ya know the ones that were gonna cover this debate, and he knew damn well, ya know, that these people were favoring Cuomo, so that's who he had. 
              "He'd try to get them there, because he (Mr. Chartock) was in the pocket with this guy (Mr. Cuomo).  Him and the Governor."

Logo from WAMC 90.3 FM's radio program 'Me and Mario'During his 12-year administration, Governor Cuomo appeared weekly on Mr. Chartock's WAMC radio interview program 'The Capitol Connection'.  After the 1994 defeat, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Chartock decided to continue the interviews, but the show's name was changed to 'Me and Mario'. It continues to air weekly over WAMC as well as on a number of other radio stations across the country.  'The Capitol Connection' still airs weekly as well, and remains an interview program about New York State government, but Governor Pataki has thus far declined all invitations to appear.

To contact Governor George E. Pataki, e-mail at:  gov.pataki@chamber.state.ny.us
To contact former Governor Mario M. Cuomo, e-mail at: mcuomo@willkie.com
To contact WAMC Chairman Alan Seth Chartock, e-mail at: alan@wamc.org
To listen to the radio program 'Me and Mario', Click Here!

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