Persistant questioning gets the right sound bite

When the four leading gubernatorial candidates were asked at a May 23 debate on Spanish-language television to give a “simple and clear answer” on how they would vote on Proposition 227, there may have been a simple and clear reason.

The videotaped responses from candidates Al Checchi, Gray Davis, Jane Harman and Dan Lungren, all of whom had announced their opposition to the bilingual-education measure well before the debate, soon ended up on a statewide television ad for the forces fighting the initiative.

Those forces include A. Jerrold Perenchio, who has donated $1.5 million to the effort against 227 and is the chairman of the Spanish-language network Univision, the debate sponsor.

Lungren appeared a little miffed when the Univision moderator pressed him for a “yes or no” answer even after Lungren had said he opposed the measure.

“I’m voting no. That’s what I mean by opposition,” repeated Lungren.

Checchi also said he opposed the measure, but was pressed until he finally said he too would vote no.

Sure enough, the anti-227 ad features those very sound bites, along with similar responses elicited from Davis and Harman.

A Univision spokeswoman denied their moderator was seeking sound bites for the commercial.

Richie Ross, the anti-227 campaign manager who made the ad, said he went to the debate with a commercial in mind, but did not tell the candidates. He also denied any coordination with Univision, except to ask “for all the videotapes of the debate they had.”

Nor did the candidates know why the Univision cameras captured them in a group shot before the debate, holding their hands together much like a sports team does before a game.

They know now. That rare show of togetherness among the four rivals closes the 30-second anti-227 ad. Univision spokeswoman Anne Corley said the group shot was taken for “post-event publicity” for Univision.

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