Local Politics

UNC Student Reporter Upsets Edwards Campaign

Posted October 26, 2007
Updated October 27, 2007

— A University of North Carolina professor said Friday that John Edwards' campaign demanded that he pull a student reporter's television story that focused on the upscale location of the Democratic candidate's campaign's headquarters.

C.A. "Charlie" Tuggle, an associate professor at the school and news director of a student-produced news program, said the Edwards campaign contacted the reporter, second-year master's degree student Carla Babb, asking that a video of her report be removed from an Internet posting. When that failed, the campaign demanded in three calls to Tuggle that the TV story be killed from the student show, he said.

Tuggle said the campaign had complained that Babb misrepresented what story she planned to do. He also said the Edwards campaign warned that relations with the school could be jeopardized.

The Edwards campaign had no comment on the professor's specific contentions. More generally, spokeswoman Colleen Murray said: "This is silly. We love all reporters. The problem is, the feeling isn't always mutual."

The TV story is to air Monday on the program "Carolina Week" in Chapel Hill. It was first posted on YouTube for an MTV contest and drew only a couple of hundred hits during the first days on the site.

Carolina Week airs on Time Warner Cable's community channel in Chapel Hill and on the university's on-campus cable system.

"[The Edwards campaign] didn't want us to put it out there," Tuggle told WRAL Friday. "Now, because of you and other broadcast and print reporters, it's everywhere."

The school has been fielding calls from The Associated Press and The New York Times, to name a few.

The Edwards campaign complained to Tuggle, he said, that the student had not disclosed the angle of the story and had asked for access to do a feature on a student who was interning for the campaign.

"Stories change, and this one did not change in a significant way, in my opinion. It just didn't meet what they were hoping for," Tuggle said. "The intimation is we went in with an ax to grind, and nothing could be further from the truth."

In the report, Babb interviews students, one on the campaign, one not. She asks whether it is appropriate for Edwards to base his operations in his affluent hometown of Chapel Hill, home of the university, as opposed to a location that would better reflect his campaign platform of fighting poverty.

After quoting the students, Babb concludes her report by saying, "It's ultimately up to the voters to decide if running a presidential campaign here was a smart move politically. But it's safe to say, in Chapel Hill, opinions are split. "

In an interview Friday with the AP, Babb said: "I was completely shocked to get a phone call from the Edwards campaign saying that the story was straight from the Republican Party and that we needed to take it down."

She said she wanted to do a story about student opinions about Edwards' headquarters near campus in Chapel Hill's Southern Village.

WRAL tried to contact Babb, but Tuggle said she was in Washington accepting a national award for best student newscast.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, graduated with a law degree from the university and helped develop and operate a poverty center there after the 2004 election, when he ran as John Kerry's vice-presidential candidate and the ticket lost to President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.


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  • oldrebel Oct 27, 2007

    It seems like this kind of story always pops up when there's something else they want you to forget about. Another side story that is out there but they throw this one out to get the feeding frenzy whipped up. Think about it. Push away from the trough and look at what "they" don't you to concentrate on. The real story is never $400 haircuts, cute quips about not staying home and baking cookies,not wearing an American flag lapel pin...those are all out there to capture the lazy intellect. Look deeper. Discover The Story that they hope will be glossed over and forgotten. It's out there. It just doesn't have the flash and pop of the current red herring.

  • Jh5230 Oct 27, 2007

    Sumo, no offense, but you're comparing apples to oranges. What would be more similar to this would be if she only asked Larry Craig whether or not his actions were in line with his specific campaign objectives, values and goals.
    In the Edwards situation, she is not making a blanket statement about all democrats and their campaign headquarters. She's only questioning whether Edwards' headquarters is in line with his values and assertions.

  • Sumo Vita Oct 27, 2007

    What if a student reporter were to conduct an "innocent" interview in Idaho asking whether it's appropriate for conservative Republicans to be soliciting gay sex in airport bathrooms, instead of conduct that would better reflect their family values based campaign platforms.

    Oh, and she'd be sure to ask all of two people, one from Craig's campaign, another off the street, to live up to the high standards of "fair and balanced" that all of you seem to laud here.

    I suspect there'd be plenty of frothing at the mouth, very little in her defense.

  • gunnarbiker Oct 27, 2007

    How dare we upset the Breck Girl. Shame Shame Shame.

  • winchester73 Oct 27, 2007

    Any of this is a surprise to people because why?

  • independent_thinker Oct 27, 2007

    No doubt Edwards is politically naive and doesn't stand a chance at the presidency.

    ...speaking of the media and the Presidency: The Bush administration has yet another black-eye with the news that FEMA staged a fake press conference, using their own employees as "reporters", asking soft-ball questions in the wake of the CA wildfires.

    Bush/Cheney did this before, with Jeff Gannon, a right wing-ding with links to TX Republicans. Gannon posed as a White House reporter for 2 years. Mr. Gannon was also linked to gay porn sites [I'm not making this up...]. During the same time period, the Senate refused to issue him press credentials, citing his "new organization's" lack of legitimacy. If I weren't naive myself, I'd be suspicious.

    If Edwards doesn't deserve the Presidency with his tomfoolery, Bush/Cheney deserve to be impeached for their myriad abuses of power.

  • thewayitis Oct 27, 2007

    SailbadTheSinner -- Just wanted to say thanks for the Reuter's link...

  • Angry Independent Oct 27, 2007

    "i guess as long as the press favors Edwards he will allow it.."

    I could comment, but this is just too funny. Read again, edwards is being hammered over this. In the PRESS.

  • retired and luv it Oct 27, 2007

    Maybe this will be his last hoorah. I think when the votes come in this time he will finally get the message and drift off into political oblivian where he belongs. Such a prtensious "wanna Be".

  • somey Oct 27, 2007

    He sure is "pretty" though. Who cares what he really stands for, libs will back him either way.