The Pryor campaign today informed KARK-4 that Sen. Mark Pryor would not participate in a proposed debate with Rep. Tom Cotton hosted by the station. See here for background on KARK’s proposed event, which Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, said that he would come to Little Rock to host.
KARK had previously proposed a debate without a commitment from Pryor but sought to put the pressure on with a splash of publicity from Todd. Cotton immediately accepted the proposal. The deadline for a response from the Pryor camp was the end of the day Wednesday.
Pryor deputy campaign manager Erik Dorey said that the campaign had said from the beginning that it first wanted to nail down debates in Fayetteville, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, and in Conway, hosted by AETN. Cotton is participating in the Fayetteville debate but has not yet committed to the AETN debate. Dorey said that the Pryor campaign’s position has been that it would only consider other proposals once Cotton agreed to the debate in Conway. He said the Pryor campaign didn’t feel comfortable making an exception for Channel 4 after not accepting offers from various other groups, such as UALR and Fox News, for that reason.
For more of the back and forth between the Cotton and Pryor campaigns over debates, see here. Expect the Cotton camp to slam Pryor for declining the KARK debate and expect the Pryor camp to slam Cotton for (so far) not accepting the AETN debate.
Here’s the letter sent by the Pryor campaign to KARK (owned by Nexstar):
After further consideration of Nexstar’s proposal, I’m sorry to say that we have reached the same conclusion as before.
After accepting two statewide debates months ago, our position has been consistent: when Rep. Cotton agrees to meet us in Fayetteville and Conway, we’ll consider other proposals. I’ve told that to countless would-be debate organizers, many of whom put forward good faith proposals such as your own.
We honestly never expected Cotton’s camp to drag their feet on AETN, which, as you know, has always been a staple for statewide candidates in Arkansas.
To change our position now and agree to Nextstar’s proposal would invite fair criticism from other media outlets both in-state and national, as well as numerous associations, student groups and stakeholders — all of whom I’ve had to tell the same thing.
Once again, I regret that we reached this point and appreciate your continued commitment to covering this race for Arkansans.
U.S. Senator Mark Pryor