A couple of recent debates on VegasPBS that I’ve co-hosted were unique in that the air conditioning at the station went out. And that made things in our studio quite hot.
In fact, the taping for the debate in the Congressional District 3 race got very hot on Thursday: A giant, noisy portable air conditioning unit had to be turned off, and at nearly the exact same time, the hot studio lights got flipped on. I personally felt like a french fry under a heat lamp. (A Fatburger “fat” fry, obviously. That’s just how I roll.)
But the show must go on, and the two candidates — Democrat Erin Bilbray and incumbent Republican Rep. Joe Heck — gamely soldiered on and did the debate despite the harsh conditions. I personally apologized to both candidates for the conditions after the debate, and Tweeted my thanks to them for enduring the stifling room. And station General Manager Tom Axtell explained the problem to the studio audience before the debate began.
Not only that, but the caption of the photo — taken by the Review-Journal’s Jeff Scheid — reports the broken A/C unit.
That’s why I was surprised today to see the Bilbray camp use a photo of Heck wiping his brow during the 45-minute debate taping on an emailed fundraising pitch with the headline, “When confronted with his voting record at the first debate, Joe Heck couldn’t take the heat.”
Heck wasn’t sweating because of Bilbray’s debate barbs or because he was trying to dodge his votes — he was sweating because there was no air conditioning in a TV studio under hot lights! And, for that matter, so was everybody else! We could have been asking Heck for his favorite scrambled egg recipes and he’d have been sweating, much less political questions under the standard stress that comes with a televised political debate. If it was under 90 degrees in that room, I’d be quite surprised.
I can’t say how much I and my co-moderator, Elizabeth Thompson, appreciated the candidates who went forward with long-scheduled debates, despite the soaring temperatures. Lieutenant governor candidates Republican state Sen. Mark Hutchison and Democratic Assemblywoman Lucy Flores didn’t miss a beat, and Heck and Bilbray rolled with the situation, too. They certainly didn’t have to; they could easily have said no, fearing they’d get a bad photo and a campaign attack line such as the one in Bilbray’s fundraising pitch.
And it would be one thing if Bilbray wasn’t there, and her campaign just plucked the photo off the web to drop into a fundraising letter. But Bilbray was in that hot studio, too, and knows the truth: Everybody was sweating, including the pudgy moderator! After the debate, I couldn’t wait to get into the relative cool of direct sunlight, to say nothing of my air-conditioned car.
So, I’m calling total unfair play on this one.