by Bob Geary
The Indy's primary election endorsements are out today. You'll read that in the House District 38 Democratic race, we endorsed Lee Sartain. The endorsement includes a comment about one of Sartain's opponents, Abeni El-Amin, and a television program she hosted that appeared on one of Raleigh's public cable-access (RTN) channels before it was pulled by the city as a violation of the rule against using RTN to promote political candidates. Our endorsement says that El-Amin showed poor judgment.
I wanted to put the program up here so viewers could see it first-hand. It pretty much spoke for itself. But I see now that the link below, which was sent to me two weeks ago, no longer works; the program's been removed from YouTube by the producer, obviously. (The picture above, btw, is a screen shot of the producer's "CarolinaExposed" webpage from last week — when it featured the program with a link to it.)
The program, 28:00 long, contained a brief video segment from a Trayvon Martin protest in Raleigh a few weeks ago. (Ostensibly, the program was "dedicated" to Trayvon Martin's memory.) But 90 percent of it was a campaign infomercial for El-Amin. She appeared at the beginning as the host, introducing her candidacy, and after the Martin protest footage was shown, the remaining 20 minutes-plus consisted of footage from El-Amin's campaign kickoff event in Raleigh. She was on camera talking about herself for most of that time.
When I spoke to her about the program, El-Amin said she wasn't the producer and had nothing to do with putting hit on the cable-access system. A campaign volunteer, she said, is also a community producer for the RTN system as a hobby. El-Amin was the program's host, however, and the show was all about her. And she did plug it on her Facebook page — at least twice — including a message to watch "Now!!" when it first aired Wednesday, April 4 at 10 p.m. Her previous FB message, on April 3, linked to the program on YouTube: "You have got to see this," it said.
After it aired April 4, Sartain complained, and RTN's manager, Karyn Thomas, pulled it out of three additional time slots for which it had been scheduled. Thomas said she doesn't preview programs if they're brought in, as this one was, by folks who are regular RTN producers. When Sartain complained, Thomas did look at it, and the program clearly violated RTN's policy against programs pitching a political candidate or campaign.
Candidates are obviously anxious to promote themselves. How they do it can reflect well or badly on them. This program reflected poorly on El-Amin, not just because it didn't belong on a cable-access channel but also because it mixed up the terrible tragedy of Trayvon Martin's death with El-Amin's desire to be elected. In that sense, it might've worked to have a program with one minute of her and 27 minutes on the Martin case. But doing it the other way around was pretty offensive.