The trying-too-hard-to-smile fellow pictured above is Lee Kittell, program director at WDEV Radio. Quiet, very hardworking, seemingly pleasant enough fellow.
But my God, he put in a disgraceful performance as moderator of the gubernatorial debate held at the Tunbridge World’s Fair. He did a good job managing the flow, but his questions. They were long-winded, bombastic, and straight outta the QAnon/Trumpiverse.
The two candidates handled the situation as you might expect. Gov. Phil Scott slid past the questions and stuck to his canned talking points. Democrat Brenda Siegel responded strongly, even directly upbraiding Kittell on at least one occasion.
Let’s start with the nadir of this piece of performance art. The issue, you will be shocked to learn, was abortion. Kittell brought up Article 22 and asked if the candidates “approve the right to have an abortion right up to the delivery room?” Which is straight out of the anti-abortion playbook.
His follow-up was even worse. He referred to our current workforce issues and asked if “the 60 million abortions performed in the last 50 years” is a cause of worker shortages.
“I’m not sure you can make that conclusion,” replied Scott, and then pivoted to his boilerplate about Vermont’s demographic challenges.
Siegel was taking no shit. “I was not born to develop a workforce,” she said. “It is an offensive question to even suggest that we should have had babies in order to develop a workforce.”
Offensive it was, but par for Kittell’s rightward course. Elsewhere, he made it clear he doesn’t believe in climate change, thinks the solution to gun violence is (wait for it) more people openly carrying guns, advocates a tough-on-crime approach to the opioid crisis*, believes our housing shortage is entirely due to excessive regulation, says we should shut down publicly-funded broadband efforts because Starlink will solve the problem, and suggests that we should end our dependence on Vermont’s only landfill and return to the days when every town had its own dump.
*Which he blames entirely on illicit fentanyl, not the pill-pushing profiteering of Big Pharma.
Yeah, the whole affair was tainted by that kind of questioning.
I’m a fan of WDEV and hope for its continued survival, but that was an embarrassment. It’s doubly unfortunate because it was the first debate of the general election campaign. Generally the first debate garners the most attention.
And the media coverage made little to no mention of Kittell’s extreme bias. VTDigger and Seven Days mentioned the abortion/workforce question (because how in hell could you not?), but nothing about the rest of Kittell’s performance. The teevee coverage was its usual surface-scrape, touching on an issue exchange or two and nothing more.
I am planning to write about the debate itself, but I had to get this off my chest. Woof.