The Elizabeth Warren campaign is taking aim at the latest move by Republican Sen. Scott Brown to reject a debate invitation from the Edward M. Kennedy Institute — when the institute’s president Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, would not accept Brown’s demand that she pledge to not make any endorsement in the Massachusetts Senate race.
“Elizabeth appreciated the invitation from UMass and from Mrs. Kennedy and was looking forward to participating in what would have been a fair and open debate, as it has been in the past,” Warren campaign manager Mindy Myers said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Scott Brown refused to participate in that debate hosted by one of the largest academic institutions in our state as well as a respected, non-partisan foundation, a debate he accepted and in which he participated two years ago. It’s not clear what he’s afraid of.”
Brown’s campaign manager Jim Barnett said in an open letter to the institute on Monday:
As the President of the Board of Trustees, Vicki Kennedy assured us in her June 8 letter that the Kennedy Institute is “non-partisan” and would therefore be an appropriate setting for a Senate debate. In order to proceed, we need to know that in keeping with the spirit of neutrality expressed in Vicki Kennedy’s letter that she will not endorse or otherwise get involved in this race.
The Kennedy Institute shot the idea down quickly, and also noted that Brown had participated in a similar debate hosted by the institute in the 2010 special election.
“This non-endorsement pledge is unprecedented and is not being required of any other persons or entities. To us, such a pledge seems inappropriate when a non-media sponsor issues a debate invitation,” Kennedy Institute chief operating officer Lisa McBirney and chief of staff Christopher Hogan wrote in a letter released Tuesday.
In response, the Brown campaign rejected the debate: “The Kennedy Institute cannot hold itself out as a nonpartisan debate sponsor while the president of its board of trustees gets involved in the race on behalf of one of the candidates.”
The Brown campaign had also asked for another stipulation — that while they accepted the choice of Tom Brokaw as moderator, they wanted MSNBC to withdraw as a sponsor, declaring that “we prefer debates with local media sponsors, not out-of-state cable networks with a reputation for political advocacy.”
In response, the Warren campaign announced that it has accepted a debate invitation from a wide consortium of local media outlets, including the Boston Globe and a variety of TV and radio stations.
Said Myers: “Brown laid out his conditions for debate and under his own conditions, there is nothing to stop him from accepting a debate hosted by a wide variety of Massachusetts media — unless he really doesn’t want to talk about his record siding with Wall Street, big corporations and millionaires.”