The last-minute push to defeat Proposition 227 took an odd turn Friday when allegations surfaced that reporters for a Spanish language television station in a recent gubernatorial debate asked questions designed solely for an anti-227 commercial.

Witnesses to the debate, including campaign consultants who asked to not be named, said only on the issue of Proposition 227 did reporters for Los Angeles-based Univision Communications Inc. repeat demands for a “simple and clear” answer in what appeared to be an attempt to elicit a sound-bite response.

Univision spokeswoman Anne Corley said the station did intend to make an anti-227 commercial but that its reporters were not told to ask specific questions during the debate that the media giant sponsored last weekend.

A. Jerrold Perenchio, Univision’s chairman and chief executive, has donated $1.5 million to the opposition campaign, according to campaign records.

Prior to the event, all of the candidates had publicly opposed the initiative, which would eliminate existing bilingual education programs.

According to a transcript, a Univision reporter repeatedly asked the four candidates for governor — Jane Harman, Gray Davis, Al Checchi and Dan Lungren — how they would vote on 227. When reponses meandered, the reporter cut in and asked the question again.

Within days, all of the candidates’ replies and a staged group photo were crafted into Ross Communications’ anti-227 television advertisement currently airing statewide.

Richie Ross, opposition campaign consultant, said he had nothing do with framing the questions. “Absolutely not,” he said. “Absolutely untrue.”

Univision’s Corely said reporters weren’t coached into specific questions. “The feeling was that this was the opportunity to get (the candidates) to make an unequivocal statement,” Corley said. “(Proposition 227) was the most relevant issue to our audience.”

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