TV station faces claims debate questions were leaked - Albuquerque Journal

TV station faces claims debate questions were leaked

The general manager of KOB-TV strongly denied Thursday any collusion with candidates in advance of a 2018 debate, but said the station would look into whether an employee might have provided debate questions to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s campaign in advance. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Dan BoydSANTA FE — The general manager of KOB-TV on Thursday strongly denied allegations the Albuquerque network station colluded with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s campaign by providing questions in advance of a 2018 gubernatorial debate.

But Michelle Donaldson, KOB-TV’s vice president and general manager, said she took the allegations seriously and would fire any employees who might have acted on their own to unfairly benefit the governor’s campaign.

Republican Mark Ronchetti, a former KRQE-TV meteorologist who is running against Lujan Grisham in this year’s race for governor, had called on KOB-TV earlier Thursday to investigate leaked text messages posted to social media that appeared to include pre-approved debate questions.

He also called on the station to investigate whether questions for a debate between himself and Lujan Grisham that took place last month had been divulged in advance.

In addition, his campaign dispatched a mobile video billboard with the word “cheater” plastered over an image of the governor to outside the rally that President Joe Biden attended in Albuquerque on Thursday.

The apparent text messages including debate questions were posted to social media this week by Thomas Grover, an Albuquerque attorney.

Grover said in a Thursday interview he received the records anonymously and did not know who had received the text messages. He also said he had not altered the records in any way, that he believed them to be legitimate and that he had additional text messages that he had not yet posted.

In response to the postings, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham’s campaign did not say specifically Thursday whether the governor had seen or received any questions in advance of the debate, but accused Ronchetti of “cooking up bizarre and ridiculous conspiracy theories about Gov. Lujan Grisham’s 2018 victory.”

Meanwhile, KOB-TV general manager Donaldson asked the Ronchetti campaign and the recipient of the messages in question to provide additional evidence so that the station can “fully investigate these allegations and maintain our commitment to transparency and the high standards we have set for the people we serve in New Mexico.”

In a tweet, former KOB reporter Chris Ramirez said the messages in question appear to have been sent by a “disgruntled staffer” who is no longer with the station.

“That one person has eroded the trust that local journalists work to earn every day in this community,” said Ramirez, who now works as a communications manager for the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

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