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 campaign’s headquarters.
C.A. “Charlie” Tuggle, an associate professor at the school, said the Edwards campaign contacted the reporter, second-year master’s degree student Carla Babb, asking for a video of her report to be removed from the Internet. When that failed, the campaign demanded in three calls to Tuggle that the TV story be killed, he said.
Tuggle said the campaign had complained that the reporter misrepresented the 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.
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.
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, 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.
Tuggle is the news director of “Carolina Week” and the broadcast professor who advises students for the newscast.
“Was it what the campaign was expecting it to be? No,” Tuggle said. “But I don’t know that we’re obligated as journalists to tell that the focus of a story has changed.”
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.
On the Net:
The student report: http://youtube.com/watch?vlb8r0XIZs7Y
John Edwards: http://johnedwards.com/