Herenton won't participate in televised debate

Dr. Willie Herenton
Dr. Willie Herenton

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Congressional candidate Dr. Willie Herenton said Wednesday he will not participate in a planned television debate.

Last September, Herenton agreed to debate his opponent, incumbent 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen, on WREG.  The live debate was scheduled to air July 11th.

Now, eight months later, the former Memphis mayor is refusing to honor his commitment because he is not comfortable with who will be asking the questions.

Specifically, Herenton said, he is referring to debate panelists Norm Brewer of WREG, and Commercial Appeal Editor Otis Sanford.  

"The panelists that the management chose to be a part of this debate I find reprehensible," Herenton said. "I've had numerous experiences with some of those panelists and they have repeatedly indicated an inability to be fair objective where I am concerned"

Sanford, who is a regular on debate panels, said he brings tough questions to the table on behalf of the voters.

"I don't have any personal animosity toward the mayor," Sanford said.  "I've been critical of Steve Cohen before so ... I'm just doing my job."

Herenton said if Brewer and Sanford are not replaced, there will be no debate to moderate.

"Otis Sanford and Norm Brewer represent their very best and if those two individuals represent their very best my answer to them is that your very best is not good enough," Herenton said.  "My answer is no."

Herenton insisted he is not ducking from his opponent, saying he is eager to come face to face with Congressman Cohen.

Herenton said if he cannot find a debate opportunity that he considered to be fair, he will take his message to the voters in other ways.

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